Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

More than half of all cancer is preventable, experts say

Date:
March 28, 2012
Source:
Washington University in St. Louis
Summary:
More than half of all cancer is preventable, and society has the knowledge to act on this information today, according to health researchers. Investigators now outline obstacles they say stand in the way of making a huge dent in the cancer burden in the United States and around the world.

More than half of all cancer is preventable, and society has the knowledge to act on this information today, according to health researchers.
Credit: iStockphoto

More than half of all cancer is preventable, and society has the knowledge to act on this information today, according to Washington University public health researchers at the Siteman Cancer Center in St. Louis.

In a review article published in Science Translational Medicine March 28, the investigators outline obstacles they say stand in the way of making a huge dent in the cancer burden in the United States and around the world.

"We actually have an enormous amount of data about the causes and preventability of cancer," says epidemiologist Graham A. Colditz, MD, DrPH, the Niess-Gain Professor at the School of Medicine and associate director of prevention and control at the Siteman Cancer Center. "It's time we made an investment in implementing what we know."

What we know, according to Colditz and his co-authors, is that lifestyle choices people make and that society can influence in a number of ways -- from tobacco use to diet and exercise -- play a significant role in causing cancer. Specifically, the researchers cite data demonstrating that smoking alone is responsible for a third of all cancer cases in the United States. Excess body weight and obesity account for another 20 percent.

But beyond individual habits, they argue that the structure of society itself -- from medical research funding to building design and food subsidies -- influences the extent of the cancer burden and can be changed to reduce it.

The obstacles they see to implementing broad cancer prevention strategies are:

Skepticism that cancer can be prevented. Smoking rates in different states demonstrate that 75 percent of lung cancer in the United States could be prevented with elimination of cigarette smoking.

The short-term focus of cancer research. Benefits of prevention may be underestimated because they take decades to show up, and research funding often spans five years or less.

Intervening too late in life to prevent cancer. Strategies like vaccination against cancer-causing viruses, such as the human papilloma virus that causes cervical cancer, work best when begun early, in this case before young people begin sexual activity.

Research focuses on treatment, not prevention. Treatments focus only on a single organ after diagnosis but behavioral changes reduce cancer and death rates from many chronic diseases.

Debate among scientists. They say health experts have a moral responsibility to highlight cancer risk factors even without knowing the biological mechanism by which they cause cancer.

Societal factors that affect health. Tobacco policy and government subsidies don't do enough to discourage unhealthy behavior, and in some cases they make the unhealthy options more accessible, especially in low-income communities.

Lack of collaboration across disciplines. Scientists and health experts must work together to learn what causes cancer, communicate that to the public and work with community leaders to implement policies that help people lead healthier lives, they say.

The complexity of implementing broad changes. With so many players involved, from health-care providers to government regulators to individuals, it will be difficult to implement broad change over the long term.

According to the American Cancer Society, an estimated 1,638,910 new cancer cases will be diagnosed this year in the United States. Also this year, 577,190 Americans are expected to die of cancer. Only heart disease kills more people in this country. And Colditz's research has shown that these cancer prevention strategies would reduce the burden of heart disease and other chronic conditions as well.

Despite the obstacles, Colditz and his colleagues point to some successes that they say demonstrate that broad change is possible. One example is the relatively quick elimination of unhealthy trans fats from the national diet. And the National Cancer Institute (NCI) has reported that lung cancer rates are declining in both men and women, supporting the benefits of tighter tobacco control policy.

"After working in public health for 25 years, I've learned that if we want to change health, we need to change policy," says co-author Sarah J. Gehlert, PhD, the E. Desmond Lee Professor of Racial and Ethnic Diversity at the Brown School of Social Work and the School of Medicine. "Stricter tobacco policy is a good example. But we can't make policy change on our own. We can tell the story, but it requires a critical mass of people to talk more forcefully about the need for change."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Washington University in St. Louis. The original article was written by Julia Evangelou Strait. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. G. A. Colditz, K. Y. Wolin, S. Gehlert. Applying What We Know to Accelerate Cancer Prevention. Science Translational Medicine, 2012; 4 (127): 127rv4 DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3003218

Cite This Page:

Washington University in St. Louis. "More than half of all cancer is preventable, experts say." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 March 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120328154433.htm>.
Washington University in St. Louis. (2012, March 28). More than half of all cancer is preventable, experts say. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120328154433.htm
Washington University in St. Louis. "More than half of all cancer is preventable, experts say." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120328154433.htm (accessed October 1, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Some Positive Ebola News: Outbreak 'Contained' In Nigeria

Some Positive Ebola News: Outbreak 'Contained' In Nigeria

Newsy (Sep. 30, 2014) The CDC says a new case of Ebola has not been reported in Nigeria for more than 21 days, leading to hopes the outbreak might be nearing its end. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
UN Ebola Mission Head: Immediate Action Is Crucial

UN Ebola Mission Head: Immediate Action Is Crucial

AFP (Sep. 30, 2014) The newly appointed head of the United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response (UNMEER), Anthony Banbury, outlines operations to tackle the virus. Duration: 00:39 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
CDC Confirms First Case of Ebola in US

CDC Confirms First Case of Ebola in US

AP (Sep. 30, 2014) The CDC has confirmed the first diagnosed case of Ebola in the United States. The patient is being treated at a Dallas hospital after traveling earlier this month from Liberia. (Sept. 30) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
New Breast Cancer Drug Extends Lives In Clinical Trial

New Breast Cancer Drug Extends Lives In Clinical Trial

Newsy (Sep. 30, 2014) In a clinical trial, breast cancer patients lived an average of 15 months longer when they received new drug Perjeta along with Herceptin. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins