ACS Report: More Collaboration Needed to Increase Anti-Cancer Efforts
Article date: May 19, 2011
Researchers from the American Cancer Society say it will take a coordinated effort among government, medical, business, nonprofit groups, and the American public to increase the percentages of people who take positive steps to prevent cancer. The 2011 report, Cancer Prevention & Early Detection Facts & Figures (CPED), says social and economic status and local laws make a significant difference in whether a person adopts behaviors that help lower the risk of developing cancer. These behaviors include avoiding tobacco, eating better, exercising more, maintaining a healthy weight, and getting recommended screenings and vaccinations.
The report estimates that in 2011 about 171,600 cancer deaths will be caused by tobacco use alone. This is because smoking rates among Americans have not declined in recent years for any age group. In 2009, the latest year for which there is data, 20.6% of adults, 19.5% of high school students, and 5.2% of middle school students smoked. The report attributes the stalled smoking rates among youth to increased advertising by the tobacco industry, along with reduced state funding of many tobacco control programs. To reduce smoking rates, the report calls for increased cigarette taxes, restrictions on smoking in public places, anti-smoking advertising campaigns, and stricter enforcement of federal regulations against advertising tobacco products to youth.
Obesity, Physical Activity and Nutrition
After tobacco use, the biggest risk factors for cancer are obesity, physical inactivity, and poor eating habits. Currently, the CPED report estimates 18.1% of adolescents and 34.3% of adults are obese, meaning they have a body mass index, or BMI, of 30 or more. On the positive side, however, the rising rates of obesity seen since the early 1980s appear to have slowed in the past decade, especially among women and girls.
In 2008, the medical costs for overweight and obesity were estimated to be $147 billion, with half of these costs paid for publicly through the Medicare and Medicaid programs. The American Cancer Society Guidelines on Nutrition and Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention stress the importance of public, private, and community organizations working together to encourage healthy eating and physical activity levels. That can include offering healthier food choices in schools, worksites, and communities, and providing safe, enjoyable, and accessible environments for physical activity in schools and for transportation and recreation in communities.
Screenings and Vaccinations
Getting recommended screening tests can help prevent some types of cancer and can help detect some cancers at an early stage, when they are easier to treat. Yet many Americans -– particularly those without health insurance -- do not get the recommended tests, the report shows.
The percentage of women getting mammography screenings has not increased since 2000. In 2008, 53% of women 40 and older reported getting a mammogram in the past year. But only 26% of women without health insurance were screened. In 2008, 53.2% of people 50 and older were up-to-date on colorectal cancer screenings, and 78.3% of adult women had had a Pap test in the previous 3 years. Screening tests for colorectal and cervical cancer can prevent some cancers by finding abnormalities that can be removed before they become cancerous.
Getting the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine is another strategy for preventing some cervical cancers. It is recommended for adolescent girls. The number of girls aged 13 to 17 who got at least the first shot in the series increased from 25% in 2007 to 44% in 2009. Nearly one-third got all three shots. However, even women who have been vaccinated still need to be screened with Pap tests because the vaccine does not protect against all the HPV strains that could cause cancer.
The American Cancer Society has published CPED yearly since 1992 as a resource to strengthen cancer prevention and early detection efforts at the local, state and national levels. View the full report.
Reviewed by members of the ACS Medical Content and News Staff
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