Monthly Archives: January 2013

Cervical Cancer is an International Issue

By Debbie Saslow, PhD

A lot has happened in the area of cervical cancer this past year. The American Cancer Society, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists all released virtually identical screening guidelines, leading to less confusion and higher acceptance from health care professionals and the public.

Thanks to screening, cervical cancer is not very common in the U.S., with about 12,340 new cases of invasive cervical cancer expected to be diagnosed in 2013. Unfortunately the same is not true around the world, where more than half a million women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year.  It is actually the 2nd largest cancer killer among women in most low- and middle-income countries.

Sadly, this disease threatens to undermine the important gains worldwide that have been made in sexual and reproductive health, maternal and child health, HIV/AIDs and other infectious diseases. For women in many countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, cervical cancer is often detected late, when there is little hope for successful treatment. And it can be devastating to the whole family, both emotionally and financially.

The good news is that a lot has been happening in global cervical cancer.  Indeed, many underserved societies have been actively advocating for improved cervical cancer control policies.… Continue reading →

Unlocking the Mysteries of Metastasis

By Charles (Karl) Saxe, PhD

Something patients do not want to hear and physicians do not want to say is “your cancer has metastasized.”

Metastasis is the process whereby cancer cells spread from the site of the original tumor to one or more other places in the body. And with upwards of 90% of all cancer suffering and death associated with metastasis, it is the single most significant challenge to management of the disease.

It’s no wonder, then, that a major goal of cancer research is to understand what causes metastasis and how it happens. [more]

Why is metastasis so deadly?

Many different types of cancers can spread (metastasize), including blood cancers, but it is most often associated with solid tumors (like breast, prostate, or colon). Cancer cells can spread to many different parts of the body, though the most common sites are the lungs, liver, brain, and bones, and each kind of cancer tends to spread to specific sites.

Tumor cells spread through 3 major paths: through lymphatic vessels, through blood vessels, and along surfaces on the inside of the body cavity. Carcinomas typically begin their journey via the lymphatic route, then later spread via blood vessels to their final destination.… Continue reading →

Weighing the Benefits and Risks of Lung Cancer Screening

By Otis W. Brawley, MD, FACP


This week the American Cancer Society announces its lung cancer screening guidelines. In short, we recommend that health care professionals with access to high-quality lung cancer screening and treatment centers should discuss screening with healthy patients aged 55 years to 74 years who have at least a 30-year history of pack-a-day cigarette smoking and who currently smoke or have quit within the past 15 years. The health care professional and patient should discuss all the known benefits and known harms associated with lung cancer screening.

These guidelines were developed after a meticulous process in which a group of cancer screening and treatment experts reviewed all the major lung cancer screening studies that have been published over the past several decades.  [more]

Benefits vs. harm

The National Lung Screening Trial (NLST), published in 2011, heavily influences this recommendation. The NLST is a well-designed clinical trial.  It studied 53,454 men and women in good health, aged 55 and over and at high risk of lung cancer because of their smoking history. The study assigned half of them to the test group of low-dose spiral CT scan, and half of them to a control group that received the standard single view chest X-ray.… Continue reading →

Light smoking as risky as a pack a day?

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]

Number of ‘chippers’ growing

Since that time, occasional smoking has become a lot more common. The number of U.S. smokers who claim to not smoke every day increased 40% between 1996 and 2001. In fact, half of U.S.… Continue reading →