January 04, 2012
Welcome to the New Year!
And as has been the case for many years in the past, the American Cancer Society takes the New Year opportunity of providing the nation with the latest estimates of cancer incidence and deaths, along with a measure of how well we are doing in reducing the burden of cancer in the United States.
The data is contained in two reports released today by the Society: the consumer oriented Cancer Facts and Figures 2012 and the more scientifically directed Cancer Statistics 2012. Both are available online.
It is never "good news" to realize that the burden of cancer in this country is immense. And with the country gaining in population and age, the extent of that burden is inevitably going to increase. But this year's report does contain some welcome information, namely that cancer death rates have declined in men and women of every racial/ethnic group over the past 10 years, with the sole (and unfortunate) exception of American Indians/Alaska Natives. In addition, the Society now estimates that a bit more than one million cancer deaths (1,024,400 to be exact) have been avoided since 1991-1992.
That one million number is actually more significant than it seems. Many of the people in that 1 million never heard the words "you have cancer." Maybe they had a colon polyp removed before it became cancerous, maybe they stopped-or never started-smoking. Maybe they had a pap smear that found a pre-cancerous lesion. And then there are the patients who have benefitted from the advances in cancer treatment that have occurred over the past number of decades.
But the 1 million number also means that these are people who have hopefully remained active and engaged in life, loved by their families, productive in their communities. In economic terms, the return on investment on avoiding those one million deaths may likely be incalculable. In human terms, it is an amazing accomplishment. More...
November 24, 2011
It isn't much of a road, really. A single lane gravel covered path through the National Forest near our home in North Georgia. It isn't a grand road, like an interstate where cars go about their business at 70 MPH or more, or large trucks haul their goods from coast to coast. It isn't a grand boulevard, like Park Avenue in New York or Michigan Avenue in Chicago.
No, it's just a country road. But for me, it's a beautiful road. It's a place to take a long walk pretty much undisturbed, especially on a Thanksgiving Day like today. It's a road through hardwoods that have lost most of their leaves, which make a beautiful reddish brown canopy on the forest floor, awaiting the inevitable decay that comes with winter. The pine trees and the holly bushes stand their green guard, awaiting the spring when the oaks, mountain laurel and rhododendron will make their reappearance to joys of many.
This morning was an especially pretty time to take a walk along the road. It was cold (32 degrees), the sky was covered in mist, with puffs of smoke rising from the river that runs along much of my path. As the sun rose, the mist gave way to cloudless blue skies, with the sound of the overnight frost dripping water onto the leaves of the trees below. And the river made its gurgling sound, occasionally punctuated by the report of a hunter's rifle.
What is so special about this road on this particular day? More...
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...
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...
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...
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...
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...
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...
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...
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.