EXPERT VOICES

Timely insight on cancer topics from the experts of the American Cancer Society

American Cancer Society Expert Voices

The American Cancer Society

Light smoking as risky as a pack a day?

January 02, 2013

By J. Lee Westmaas, PhD


Do you occasionally have a cigarette, maybe not even every day? Although people resolve to quit smoking in the new year, you might think only heavy smokers need to quit. But that isn't the case.

Light or intermittent smoking has become a very common pattern for people of any age.  Many of these people do not feel addicted to tobacco and do not even call themselves "smokers." There are, however, some real risks associated with any level of smoking. Non-daily smoking, or smoking 1-5 cigarettes a day, was first noticed as far back as 1989 because it was a stark contrast to the more common pattern at that time -- 20 to 30 cigarettes a day. At that time, very light smokers were labeled "chippers" (a term that also referred to occasional users of opiates who appeared to not be addicted). Chippers didn't appear to smoke to relieve withdrawal, and sometimes didn't smoke for a day or more. More...

Caregivers, Say Yes to the Holidays

December 12, 2012

By Joleen Specht, CHP


The holidays are coming, the holidays are coming! For many the response may be an "Aaaah" (soft, warm sigh). For caregivers, however, "AAAAAHHHHH!"(loud, shrill scream) may more closely resemble the initial response. Caring for a loved one during the holidays can bring to the surface so many different emotions. Some people wear themselves out trying to do everything, and others wish to skip the holidays altogether. 

It's okay to long for memories of holidays past, when things seemed easier. Although, if we are honest with ourselves, those warm, fuzzy memories are likely skewed. Let's face it; no matter your lot in life, the "perfect" holiday exists only in Norman Rockwell paintings. The warmth of a cozy fire in the fireplace and the smell of cinnamon apple cider may have been a reality in the past, but as a caregiver of a loved one with a serious illness, your holiday may exist in a new reality. 

This doesn't mean all is lost. Holiday joy doesn't have to depend on doing everything the same way it has always been. It's okay to make some changes. Start small, start simple. Here are some ways to make this holiday one to remember: More...

Filed Under:

Caregiving

Holiday Eating Tips If You're in Cancer Treatment

December 03, 2012

By Michele Szafranski, MS, RD, CSO, LDN

 

We all have wonderful food memories associated with the holidays. Maybe it is a favorite dish made by a loved one or a special memory of decorating cookies with your grandchildren. But during cancer treatment, visions of sugar plums may bring anxiety. When you are having trouble eating or keeping food down, the thought of holiday gatherings and meals can fill you with dread. There are a few things to keep in mind that might be help you get through these occasions with reduced stress.


Celebrating doesn't have to be stressful

What can you do to make a holiday gathering less stressful? First, don't be afraid to tell people you aren't up to your usual celebration. Delegate if you are hosting the party. People always want to know what they can do, so give them specific dishes or tasks to take some of the pressure off.  If you have a dish you are known for, focus your energy on that one dish and let others take care of the rest. If you aren't up to cooking, pass the beloved recipe to a friend or loved one for them to try.  Offer to bring drinks, paper goods, or the centerpiece for the holiday table. To avoid the hassle of a big entrance, arrive early and find a quiet spot to sit if you need to escape from the hustle and bustle of the kitchen.

When it comes to the food, here are tips to help you find what and how much you can eat: More...

Filed Under:

Caregiving | Survivorship

Mind the (Smoking) Gap: Those Who Want to Quit and Those Who Actually Do

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...

The Reflected Light of Steve Jobs: A Brighter Future for Pancreatic Cancer

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...

The FDA and Tobacco Regulation Three Years Later

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...

Does Being Overweight Cause Breast Cancer?

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...

On the difference between 'disparities' and 'differences'

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...

Filed Under:

Disparities

Cancer Statistics About Hispanics Released

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...

Filed Under:

Breaking News | Disparities

Can Removing Fallopian Tubes Prevent Cancer ?

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...

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