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Dr. Len's Cancer Blog

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A Declaration for the World, A Noble Mission For All

by Dr. Len September 20, 2011

There are few times in life when one gets to watch history being made. Today is one of those times.


I am in New York with a number of colleagues from the American Cancer Society and other committed organizations to observe a UN High Level Meeting which will--at long last--put non-communicable diseases on the international agenda. The impact of the decisions made here over the next two days can indeed change the face of global health forever. More...

Welcome to the World, Rayna Analiese--and Looking Forward to Many Happy Birthdays!

by Dr. Len August 10, 2011

(A letter to my newborn granddaughter)


Good morning, Rayna Analiese. Welcome to the world!


You are a teeny 8 pound 8 ounce bundle of beauty and joy who arrived yesterday afternoon at 1:32 PM CDT--100 years (almost to the very day) after one of your great grandmothers was born. 


Grandpa--who is normally not a big lover of babies--went gaga over you. "So cute! So cute!" is about all he could say as he snuggled you in his tall arms--afraid all the while that he might drop this football-size bundle of love.


You have lots of people who love you, and lots more who are going to love you--not to mention all the people who love you who haven't had a chance to meet you in person yet. You have aunts and uncles and great aunts and uncles and grandmothers and grandfathers and great grandmothers to boot--and don't forget your great-great grandmother who will squeeze you tight. You are going to have to get used to the large family feasts filled with all sorts of nasty food when you come home from time to time to parade your cute little bonnets around the many houses you will have to visit. Mom and Dad are certainly going to have fun on those trips.


But I wouldn't be me if I didn't think for a moment about what your new life means, so forgive me for a moment while I ponder the meaning you bring into our lives, especially for Grandma Sandra and Grandpa Len. More...

Cancer Facts and Figures 2011: Poverty is a Carcinogen. Does Anyone Care?

by Dr. Len June 17, 2011

"Poverty is a carcinogen."


Those were the words of Dr. Samuel Broder when he was director of the National Cancer Institute in 1989.  


As amply documented in the annual "Cancer Facts and Figures 2011" released today by the American Cancer Society, cancer shows that poverty remains one of the most potent a carcinogen-rivaling tobacco and obesity-as we have ever seen.


We have heard lots and lots about how cell phones and Styrofoam cause cancer.  But do you hear anyone talking about the huge impact of poverty and limited education on cancer?


If you don't hear anything about a true carcinogen that statistics show causes 37% of the deaths from cancer in people between the ages of 27 and 64, then maybe you have the answer to a very important question: If we are serious about reducing the burden and suffering from cancer, why aren't we paying attention to those most in need? More...

Where Have You Gone Vitamin D?

by Dr. Len March 23, 2011

Oh, vitamin D, where have ye gone?  We miss ya!!


That might be the refrain of many who have labored so long to promote awareness of vitamin D as a possible cancer prevention agent for the past number of years. 


Not that the advocates have lost their faith-a recent article from Dr. Cedric Garland, who is an expert on vitamin D as a case in point-but a report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) has thrown a bit of a damper on the unbridled enthusiasm that vitamin D was the answer to cancer prevention that many have been seeking for some time.


No, the IOM did not endorse vitamin D as a cancer prevention agent.  And based on what they could say from the literature, the panel did endorse the concept that vitamin D is important for bone health, while blood tests that reportedly showed substantial deficiencies throughout the United States were in fact not being appropriately interpreted.


Now, in a "Perspective" piece in this week's New England Journal of Medicine, three of the IOM panel members share their thoughts with the public as to why the panel did not reach the conclusion that vitamin D decreases cancer risk.  And, while they support that conclusion, they also don't lose sight of the possibility that there may just be some truth behind the claims-bit it hasn't been proven just yet. More...

Cancer Survivors Are (Fortunately) Very Much A Part Of Our Lives

by Dr. Len March 10, 2011

An article just released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in their weekly publication "Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report" provides an assessment of the progress we have made in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer.


Clearly, since 1971, we have made substantial advances in the cancer treatment.  We have become a larger and older nation.  We have pushed the threshold for the diagnosis of cancer, with breast and prostate cancers as leading examples.


The result is that we have many millions more people alive with cancer today than was ever the case in our history.


But with the progress also comes cautions about what the data means, and where our journey must go if we are to address some of the key issues reflected in these statistics. More...

A Progress Report On My "Groundhog Day Diet": Yes, I Still See My Shadow

by Dr. Len February 02, 2011

Today is February 2nd, and it's Groundhog Day.


For me, it is the first anniversary of my Groundhog Day diet, so it's a good time to reflect on whether or not I met my personal goal set last Groundhog Day not to repeat the diet mistakes of the past, and try to maintain my weight for a whole year.


Was I successful?  Partly yes, and partly no.  But the good news is I did better this year than I did in the past, so that's a start-as long as one has a long term view of life. More...

Filed Under:

Diet | Exercise | Prevention

And Now A Message About Your Weight (Just What You Want To Hear This Time Of Year)

by Dr. Len December 03, 2010

I hope your Thanksgiving holiday was a happy one, and that you are looking forward to a pleasant December.  But vigilance about your health is not taking a holiday, as two new releases yesterday--one in a medical journal and the other from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention--are bound to make you think twice about that extra helping of stuffing you ate while enjoying your Thanksgiving meal.


The first report is in today's edition of the New England Journal of Medicine, and written by a number of authors--including a colleague of mine from the American Cancer Society, Dr. Michael Thun--who examined the interminable question of whether or not being overweight as well as being obese can impact how long you will live. 


This article will give the boot to the old adage that you can never be too rich or too thin.  The scientists don't say anything about being too rich--we will have to leave that one to the psychologists to answer--but they do suggest that in fact you can be too thin.


The other report, from the United States Department of Health and Human Services offers statistics on the rate of obesity in the United States today, and sets goals for what we can accomplish in reducing those rates over the next decade. More...

Filed Under:

Diet | Exercise | Prevention

Your Waist and Your Health: One More Thing To Worry About

by Dr. Len August 10, 2010

There they go again, trying to ruin my day.  The "they" in question are my epidemiology colleagues down the hall at our American Cancer Society offices in Atlanta. 


The topic a couple of weeks ago that got me going was an article they published suggesting that I had a higher chance of premature death because I sit at a desk most of the day.  Today's "offense" was a report published in the Archives of Internal Medicine showing that the larger your waist size-for the most part, with a couple of exceptions-the greater your chance of premature death.  And even if your body mass index (BMI) was normal-which is a measure of your height relative to your weight, and is used to classify people as normal, overweight or obese-you could still have an increased chance of death if your paunch is, uh, oversized.



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The 2010 Statistics Are Out, And 767,000 People Have Celebrated More Birthdays

by Dr. Len July 07, 2010

Every year the American Cancer Society provides a report that is one of the most widely quoted scientific articles in this country.  This year's "Cancer Statistics, 2010" report was released this morning, and provides a considerable amount of information regarding the burden of cancer in the United States, such as the expected number of new cancer cases and number of cancer deaths in the United States in 2010.


As part of the same report, my colleagues at the American Cancer Society also dissect the numbers and provide insight into the trends in cancer incidence and deaths, what is happening and perhaps why it is happening.  Statistics--no matter how good you are at writing reports--are always somewhat droll and boring.  But there are the occasional pearls that leap out at you from time to time, especially if you are interested in this particular subject (which obviously, I am).


Some good news is that--as we have seen in recent years--the death rates from cancer in this country continue their steady decline since the early 1990's.  For men of all races, death rates from cancer have fallen 21% between 1990 and 2006, the latest year for which accurate information is available.  Most of that decline can be explained by decreases in deaths from lung, prostate and colorectal cancer which account for 80% of the observed fall in cancer deaths in men.  For women, the data show a 12.3% decrease in cancer death rates over the similar period of time with most of the decrease coming from falling breast and colorectal cancer death rates.  For women, unfortunately--as has been the case for the past several years--lung cancer deaths have remained steady.


These changes from the early 1990's through 2006 have occurred slowly, year over year over year.  But when looked at in total, you begin to understand the impact of this accumulated progress. My colleagues estimate that over this period of time, 767,000 deaths from cancer have been avoided.



"Choose You" Is All About You--And Us

by Dr. Len May 04, 2010

Today is a special day at the American Cancer Society as we launch our brand new “Choose You” movement, which is designed to inspire women to take action and put their health first in order to stay well and help prevent cancer.


As I reflect on this moment while here in New York with other volunteers, friends and Society staff, I can’t help but think of how difficult it is for any of us these days to try to take care of ourselves given the frequently hectic, overcommitted and overstressed lifestyles that many of us face every day.


At heart, that’s what Choose You is all about: finding time for women to take care of themselves, making the commitment to do just that, and creating a social network that supports their efforts and gathers their friends and family around them as they strive to develop and maintain a healthier lifestyle.


Filed Under:

Diet | Exercise | Prevention

About Dr. Len

Dr. Len

J. Leonard Lichtenfeld, MD, MACP - Dr. Lichtenfeld is Deputy Chief Medical Officer for the national office of the American Cancer Society.



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