By Nathan Grey, MPH
For many years, global health has been associated with diseases like HIV/AIDS and malaria. And rightly so. These diseases present significant threats to health around the world. But they aren’t the only major killers. In fact, they’re not even the leading killers anymore! Today, cancer claims more lives globally than HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis combined, and the death toll from cancer is only going to grow.
How can this be? Well, there are two major factors that affect the growing impact of cancer around the world.
First, we’ve done a much better job of controlling diseases that used to kill people while they were still quite young. Vaccinations, new medications including antibiotics, and prevention programs (like providing bed nets to combat mosquitoes and malaria, and clean drinking water to curb a host of other water-borne illnesses) have led to people living longer. And as people live longer they are faced with the diseases more common to older age, such as cancer.
Second, when people live longer, there is a greater chance that they will be exposed to cancer-causing agents – like tobacco – at some point in their lives. Longer lives plus greater exposure to cancer-causing substances equals more cancer.… Continue reading →
By Michele Szafranski, MS, RD, CSO, LDN
“Well, I could stand to lose some weight.” As a cancer dietitian, I have heard this more times than I can count in the past 10 years. But most people are surprised when I explain to them that losing weight during their treatment may not be the best time. While getting to a healthy weight over the long run can be a healthy thing to do, it can actually be harmful before and during cancer treatment.
For some people with cancer, keeping weight stable can feel like an uphill battle since there are many factors that can contribute to weight loss even before patients are diagnosed. For instance, the cancer itself may produce chemicals called “cytokines” that can give you less of an appetite or cause nausea. Or the location of a tumor may place pressure on the digestive tract, making you fill up on food easily or have a hard time swallowing. After receiving a diagnosis, anxiety about the diagnosis and upcoming treatment can take away appetite. Then once treatment begins, side effects such as nausea, diarrhea, taste changes, and sore throat can change what and how much people are eating. [more]
Weight loss can affect recovery
But weight loss before and during treatment can reduce the extra energy and nutrients your body stores and impact recovery in many ways.… Continue reading →
By Durado Brooks, MD, MPH
Imagine being told by your doctor, “You have cancer.” Then imagine that their next words are “… but we probably don’t need to do anything about it.” Many people would immediately start looking for another doctor. But hold on just a moment.
Last month the National Institutes of Health (NIH) brought together experts from around the world for a summit to examine the state of our scientific knowledge on “active surveillance” as a management strategy for prostate cancer. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, active surveillance essentially means monitoring the cancer closely and delaying active treatment (surgery or radiation, for instance) until there are signs it is needed; the delay may be months, years, or forever. This summit pointed out that while there is still much we need to learn about this once-controversial approach, there is a wealth of data supporting the potential value of active surveillance for a large number of the 240,000 men in the United States who are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year. [more]
Not treating cancer?
To most individuals, the idea of having cancer and choosing not to treat it smacks of fatalism, or just giving up.… Continue reading →
By Colleen Doyle, MS, RD
Today, the American Cancer Society released its 2012 Guidelines on Nutrition and Physical Activity Cancer Prevention. Based on sound science and strong evidence, our best advice to the general public to help reduce their risk of cancer through nutrition and physical activity is to:
- achieve and maintain a healthy weight throughout life
- adopt a physically active lifestyle
- consume a healthy diet, with an emphasis on plant foods
- limit consumption if you drink alcoholic beverages
As a matter of fact, for the majority of us who don’t smoke, these are the most important ways to reduce cancer risk. [more]
In addition to these recommendations for individuals, also included in the guidelines is a key Recommendation for Community Action:
Public, private, and community organizations should work together at national, state, and local levels to implement policy and environmental changes that:
- Increase access to affordable, healthy foods in communities, worksites, and schools, and decrease access to and marketing of foods and beverages of low nutritional value, particularly to youth.
- Provide safe, enjoyable, and accessible environments for physical activity in schools and worksites, and for transportation and recreation in communities.
Guidelines evolve with evidence
Writing about this last night got me thinking about how our nutrition and activity guidelines have changed since we first published them in 1984 as we’ve learned more about how nutrition and physical activity impact cancer risk.… Continue reading →