November 14, 2012
By Thomas J. Glynn, PhD
For those who have traveled London's Underground, or Tube, the term "Mind the Gap" will be familiar. It's the warning for riders to be aware that there is a gap of several inches between the station platform and the train cars. In the public health community, we also have a gap: the gap between the number of smokers who want to quit and those who actually succeed. The American Cancer Society Great American Smokeout, held this year on November 15, is an opportunity to remind us that we also need to "mind the gap."
In the United States, this gap is very wide. Nearly 70% of the country's 43.8 million smokers say they would like to quit smoking; 52% report making at least one serious attempt to quit each year; but a disappointingly low 4% are actually successful in doing so. More...
November 06, 2012
By William C. Phelps, PhD
Back in May something amazing happened. A 15-year-old high school freshman from Crownsville, MD, Jack Andraka, won the National Intel Science Fair for creating a more sensitive and much less expensive device to detect pancreatic cancer. This is a remarkable achievement for a high school freshman and could be a game-changing discovery for a deadly cancer if it proves successful in future clinical testing, expected to be a number of years away. Only a few months before that, 17-year-old Angela Zhang from Cupertino, CA, won the Siemens Prize for creating laser-activated nanoparticles which kill cancer cells. Clearly, a bright light of innovation is growing in our next generation of young scientists.
Among the hundreds of different cancers that affect people today, perhaps none is more dreadful than pancreatic cancer. Doctors cannot easily detect it, nor are there effective treatments available for the majority of patients. We don't fully understand what causes pancreatic cancer and we know very little about how it can be prevented. The disease is frighteningly aggressive in its growth, with patients often living less than a year after they're diagnosed. Why has progress been so frustratingly slow for pancreatic cancer when compared with other forms of cancer? In general, cancer is considered a very complex collection of diseases, and among cancers, pancreatic cancer is one of the more complicated. It has been an unusually slow process to unravel the biological picture of pancreatic cancer. More...
October 29, 2012
By Thomas J. Glynn, PhD
As the official sponsor of birthdays, the American Cancer Society has every reason to be proud of a "toddler" celebrating its third birthday this year. The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act - aka the Tobacco Control Act - was strongly supported by ACS and ACS CAN and signed into law by President Barack Obama on June 22, 2009.
For the first time and after nearly 2 decades of debate, this historic legislation gave the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the authority to regulate tobacco products. In doing so, Congress enabled the FDA to establish the Center for Tobacco Products (CTP), which is charged with regulating the manufacture, marketing, and distribution of tobacco products in order to reduce tobacco use by children under 18 and protect public health.
More specifically, the Tobacco Control Act authorizes the FDA to act in a number of ways, including:
- Restricting tobacco sales, distribution, and marketing
- Requiring stronger health warnings on packaging and in advertisements
- Requiring disclosure of tobacco product ingredients
- Reducing (but not eliminating) the amount of nicotine in tobacco products
- Creating standards for tobacco products
- Regulating "modified risk" (i.e. potentially harm reducing) tobacco products, such as e-cigarettes, snus, dissolvables, etc.
So, with the authority to take these types of action, how is the Tobacco Control Act doing 3 years later? Is it having its intended effects? Are Americans - tobacco users and non-users alike - beginning to see its hoped-for health benefits? To best address these questions, it will help to take a small step back and consider the history of the Tobacco Control Act, take a brief look at the Act's accomplishments to date, and then look a bit into the future. More...
October 11, 2012
The Relationship between Weight and Breast Cancer
By Lauren Teras, PhD
Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women today. More than 1 million women world-wide are diagnosed with this cancer each year, mostly in the 50 and older age group. Breast Cancer Awareness Month highlights this international public health problem, and it is a good time to consider ways in which we can reduce our risk of this cancer. While many factors beyond our control contribute to risk, like age and family history, we do know of a few ways we can lower the risk of breast cancer.
Worldwide obesity has more than doubled since 1980. Once considered a problem only in high income countries, being overweight and obese is now dramatically on the rise all over the world, particularly in urban areas. As of 2008, the World Health Organization estimated that 1.4 billion adults were overweight, including 300 million obese individuals. In the year 2000, for the first time in human history, the number of adults worldwide who were overweight was greater than the number of adults who were underweight. In fact, approximately 65% of the world's population lives in countries where being overweight and obese kills more people than being underweight. The U.S. is near the front of the pack as the country with the 4th highest rate of obesity; about 2/3 of people in America are overweight, including approximately 1/3 are obese. More...
September 27, 2012
By Tim Byers, MD, MPH
There are many definitions of health disparities, but my favorite is disparities are differences that should not exist. This definition reflects the social injustice in how some races and ethnicities suffer more from cancer than others.
I like this definition of disparities (or health inequity, as many people are calling it) because it can motivate us to fix the problem - the social, economic, cultural, and political barriers that keep some racial and ethnic minorities from getting cancer prevention, early detection, and state-of-the-art cancer treatment. This obviously can be harmful to racial and ethnic minorities.
But this definition is also a problem. It can cause us to focus so much on the differences that should not exist (the social and economic inequalities) that we ignore factors driving racial and ethnic differences that may actually have a positive influence on people's risk of developing or dying from cancer. Why is that important? More...
September 17, 2012
Hispanics have lower cancer screening rates; are diagnosed with cancer at later stages
By Rebecca Siegel, MPH
A new Cancer Facts & Figures for Hispanics/Latinos has been released in conjunction with National Hispanic Heritage Month. This publication is updated every 3 years and is a resource for current information about cancer among Hispanics. But you may be wondering why we produce a 35-page report devoted solely to cancer statistics for Hispanics.
For 60 years the American Cancer Society's Research department has promoted cancer prevention and control by providing cancer data in a user-friendly format called Cancer Facts & Figures. Over the years, new Facts & Figures publications have been developed to highlight a particular cancer type or a specific population. In 2000, to answer the increasing demand for more in-depth information on cancer in the growing Hispanic community, the inaugural Cancer Facts & Figures for Hispanics/Latinos was introduced.
Hispanics Fastest-Growing Minority in US
Promoting cancer prevention and control in the Hispanic community is more important than ever because Hispanics are the largest and fastest growing minority population in the United States. As we learned from the 2010 census conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, more than 16% of Americans, 50.5 million people, identify themselves as Hispanic. The 43% increase in the Hispanic population over the past decade -- compared to a 10% increase in the total population -- accounted for more than half of the overall population growth. By 2050, approximately 30% of all Americans will be Hispanic, which means that more and more new cancer patients will be Hispanic. More...
August 28, 2012
By Debbie Saslow, PhD
I've seen a few articles recently about removing the fallopian tubes to prevent ovarian cancer, a procedure called "prophylactic bilateral salpingectomy". And not just in women who are at high risk for ovarian cancer, which is already recommended by gynecological medical societies in the United States, but for all women who are not planning to have any more children and who are about to undergo abdominal surgery for any reason.
I can see the appeal given that many, if not most, ovarian cancers actually originate in the fallopian tubes. In fact, it is more common to find microscopic fallopian tube cancer than microscopic ovarian cancer in women with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutation when they have their ovaries and fallopian tubes removed. (These mutations put them at higher risk for ovarian and breast cancer.) And unfortunately we don't yet have an accurate test to screen women for ovarian cancer, so these cancers are usually found at a late stage when they are often fatal.
It is common for women to get their "tubes tied" (i.e. tubal ligation) as a form of permanent birth control, and we know this reduces the risk of ovarian cancer. But removing the fallopian tubes is a more invasive procedure, and the potential benefits and potential harms are largely unknown. Is it worth it? Does it really reduce the risk of ovarian cancer and, if so, by how much? More...
August 13, 2012
By William C. Phelps, PhD
During 2011, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved 30 completely new therapies (new molecular entities, as opposed to the modification of an old drug), 7 of which were for treatment of different types of cancer. One of them, the lung cancer drug crizotinib, was decades in the making. For a new drug, that isn't necessarily a lot of time.
Why does it take so long to get cancer treatments to the patients who need them? The answer lies both in the complexity of cancer and the complexity of the drug development and testing process. More...
August 02, 2012
By Marji McCullough, ScD, RD
Before writing a blog about soy and breast cancer, I took an informal poll of a few friends to get a sense of what women believe about soy. I asked them, "What do you know about eating soy food? Is it good for you? Not good for you?" (I didn't even mention breast cancer.) The responses I got were, "I think it acts like estrogen in the body"; "Consuming any soy products increases the risk of breast cancer"; "I don't eat it a lot because I heard something negative but I can't remember what it was;" and "I've heard you should only have it in moderation." Apparently, people are hearing that soy may not be good. But what's the truth? In this blog I'll walk you through what we know and what we don't know about soy and breast cancer, and give you some practical tips on eating soy. More...
July 24, 2012
By Alvaro Carrascal, MD, MPH
These days we hear a lot about health disparities, cancer disparities, health equity, etc. What is this all about? And why do these terms seem to be more discussed now?
MedlinePlus, the National Institutes of Health's website for patients, describes health disparities as "differences between groups of people. These differences can affect how frequently a disease affects a group, how many people get sick, or how often the disease causes death."
For the World Health Organization (WHO), health equity is "the absence of unfair and avoidable or remediable differences in health among population groups defined socially, economically, demographically or geographically."
Essentially, health equity is about everyone getting a fair shake when it comes to health and healthcare. More...