Category Archives: Prevention & Early Detection

Prostate Cancer Screening: The Scientific View

By Otis W. Brawley, MD, FACP

Actor Ben Stiller revealed Tuesday that he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer two years ago and he discussed his experience in an article published on Medium.  Stiller’s prostate cancer story is not unusual. There are countless instances where men with no symptoms, no known family history, no other risk factors, undergo screening for prostate cancer, who have prostate cancer detected, treated, and are left better off. And it would be hard to convince these men that screening did not save their lives.

But we now know that the majority of men with prostate cancer will not die of their disease, whether they receive aggressive treatment, are watched carefully, or even if it was never diagnosed.

The harsh truth is that even under the best conditions, with careful screening, some men will still die of prostate cancer.

This is why no major health group recommends all men be screened. The PSA test can be useful, but it is not perfect, not by a longshot.

Mr. Stiller admits he is “not offering a scientific point of view here, just a personal one…” So what is the scientific point of view? Twelve professional organizations in the United States and Europe have looked at the scientific data.… Continue reading →

New Year, New You: Cancer.org Can Help

Hand on a Scale

It’s that time of year again. The time when many of us set new goals, start positive lifestyle changes, or seek to improve our lives in one way or another. Whether you choose to make a New Year’s resolution or not – now is a great time to take a look at your health and habits and think about what you could be doing better.

But sometimes it is hard to know where to start. Cancer.org offers a wealth of information to help you be healthy. Here’s a roundup of our 10 most popular health and wellness articles to get you going:

  1. If you’re trying to quit smoking: Kicking the habit is hard. But our guide to quitting smoking walks you through all you need to know about how to successfully stop.
  1. If you’re working on cutting calories: Eating the right amount of nutritious foods can help you get to and stay at a healthy weight – which is important to your overall health and can help prevent cancer. Use our calorie counter tool to get an estimate of how many calories you need.
  1. If you’re looking for motivation to lose weight: If you are trying to lose weight this year and need some extra motivation, review our information about how being overweight or obese can raise your risk for certain types of cancer.
Continue reading →

Smokers: Make the Choice to Improve Your Life Today

By Cliff Douglas, JD

Stopping smoking is hard. For many smokers, it may take multiple tries to break the addiction for good. And often, getting support from friends, family, and experts is what smokers need to make the life-saving choice to quit.

That’s why the American Cancer Society gives extra inspiration to smokers nationwide each year through its Great American Smokeout – a day when smokers are encouraged to quit for the day and make a plan to quit for good.

Quitting even for one day is an important step towards a smoke-free life, but even that can prove difficult.

As someone who has been in the fight against tobacco for more than 25 years, I have seen just how challenging it can be for smokers to quit. I have helped pass laws making airplanes smoke-free, worked to defend local smoke-free restaurant and workplace laws, and consulted to United States government leaders about what more we as a nation can do to put an end to the harms of tobacco use.

But even with all of the progress we have made, for those who smoke, quitting is still a hard-fought battle to win. Some people are able to quit on their own, without the help of others or the use of medicines.… Continue reading →

Of Tennis Shoes, Sidewalks, and Crosswalks

By Colleen Doyle, MS, RD

I wrote this blog in my head first, while I was on a walk. I was thinking about how fortunate I am to live in an area that I can walk – safely – for fitness and fun, for date nights and errands. But it wasn’t always that way.

My family and I used to live in a neighborhood where we could not walk to anything from our home. Besides having no stores, restaurants, schools, dry cleaners – you name it – within a reasonable walking distance, the road leading to our neighborhood was narrow, had no sidewalks, and people sped down that road with reckless abandon.

When we decided to move “in town,” we were ecstatic. I could walk or ride my bike to work, our kids could bike to school, and we could even walk to the gym to get our workouts in. We saved lots of money by not having to fill up our gas tanks so frequently. We felt less stress from not having to drive as often on traffic-packed highways and roads.  Physical, financial and quality of life benefits — all from living in an area where we could get out and walk, safely, and for multiple purposes. 

The Surgeon General’s Call to Action

All this has been on my mind because a new report is being released today: The Surgeon General’s Call to Action on Walking and Walkable Communities.… Continue reading →

Can Vitamin D prevent cancer?

By Marji McCullough, ScD, RD

You may be aware that Vitamin D is important for helping make strong bones. But vitamin D often appears in the media because of its potential role in a host of other health effects, from preventing cancer, diabetes, and heart disease to simply living longer.  However, most of these “non-skeletal” (not having to do with your bones) roles of vitamin D are not clearly established and remain a topic of active investigation and debate. To add to the confusion, several recent scientific reviews of the vast data on vitamin D arrived at different conclusions about whether it helps prevent disease or not.

In this blog, I am going to focus on the evidence on vitamin D and cancer prevention, highlight some key unresolved questions, and give some advice to consider while we await more solid answers (which may take a while).

Where does vitamin D come from?

People can get vitamin D from exposure to sunlight, from certain foods, and from supplements.

Current vitamin D recommendations from the Institute of Medicine (IOM), the organization tasked with developing the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs), are 600 International Units (IU) per day for most adults, and 800 IU of vitamin D per day for those over age 70.… Continue reading →

What keeps people from lifesaving colon cancer testing?

By Richard Wender, MD

We have made amazing progress in reducing colon cancer death rates. This progress is a direct result of increasing screening for colon cancer and pre-cancerous polyps. We are actually preventing thousands of cancers by finding and removing pre-cancerous polyps. The nation has embraced the goal of increasing national screening rates to 80% by the end of 2018 – an achievement that will substantially reduce the terrible toll that colon cancer exacts every year.  Everyone is at risk for colon cancer, whether or not someone in your family has ever had a colon polyp or colon cancer. For that reason, everyone has to start being screened for colon cancer at age 50, and people with inflammatory bowel disease or a family history of colon cancer or polyps have to start before they reach age 50. Colon cancer screening is one of the best opportunities to prevent cancer that we’ve ever discovered.

Despite this compelling reason to be screened, many people either have never had a colon cancer screening test or are not up-to-date with screening. Interestingly, nearly all of these unscreened people know that they should be screened, In fact, awareness about colon cancer screening recommendations approaches 100%.… Continue reading →

Celebrating 25 Years of Smoke-Free Airplanes

By John R. Seffrin, PhD

Twenty-five years after a federal law passed banning smoking on all domestic flights, many of us don’t even notice the lit “No Smoking” sign above our airplane seats. Until that landmark public health legislation took effect on February 25, 1990, flight attendants were subjected to deadly secondhand smoke during every flight and travelers who sat in “non-smoking” sections couldn’t escape the fumes.

As a member of the American Cancer Society National Board of Directors 25 years ago, I agreed it was imperative for the Society to utilize its scientific expertise and passionate volunteer base to counteract the tobacco industry and protect non-smokers and flight attendants from the hazardous effects of secondhand smoke on every flight. We had the evidence to prove that smoke-free laws saved lives, so we decided to take the issue to Capitol Hill. The Society and its public health partners had champions in Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), whose unwavering support was instrumental in passing the legislation. (You can hear more about Senator Durbin’s involvement in this video.)

The smoke-free airplanes legislation sparked a nationwide movement in support of smoke-free workplaces. In 2002, Delaware became the first state to enact a comprehensive smoke-free law covering all workplaces, including bars and restaurants.… Continue reading →

Less Food Marketing, Healthier Children

By Colleen Doyle, MS, RD

Have you seen all those fun and flashy commercials encouraging your kids to eat more fruits and vegetables? No? Neither have I. And there’s a reason for that. 

Out of the $1.79 billion that the Federal Trade Commission says major food and beverage companies spent marketing foods and beverages to kids and teens (in 2009 – the most recent data available), less than .05% was spent marketing fruits and vegetables. Unfortunately for those of us who care about children’s health – which I hope is all of us – the majority of those dollars was spent on marketing unhealthy foods and beverages. Forty percent was spent to market fast food and other restaurant foods, and another 22% was spent promoting high-sugar sodas and other carbonated beverages.

And consider these additional statistics:

  • Two BILLION advertisements for foods and drinks appeared on websites directed at kids in 2009, mostly for sugary cereals and fast food.
  • Dollars spent to market foods and drinks to kids via online games, mobile apps, social network ads, and other digital media increased by 51% from 2006 to 2009.
  • Companies spent $149 MILLION in 2009 to market sugary drinks and food in schools.
Continue reading →

Indoors or outdoors, there’s no such thing as a safe tan

By Gery P. Guy Jr., PhD, MPH

If you read no further, know this: there is no such thing as a safe tan. Indoor tanning is just as dangerous, if not more, than tanning outside in the sun. In fact, indoor tanning injures thousands of people each year badly enough to go to the emergency department. Indoor tanning can cause sunburn and damage to your eyes that could lead to vision loss. Indoor tanning can also cause premature skin aging, including loss of elasticity, wrinkling, age spots, and changes in skin texture.

Most dangerous of all, indoor tanning is a recognized cause of skin cancer, including deadly melanoma. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. Approximately 3.5 million cases of non-melanoma skin cancers are treated each year, and more than 70,000 melanomas are diagnosed yearly. While many cancers have been on the decline in recent years, rates of melanoma, which causes the most skin cancer-related deaths, have been on the rise. Increased exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UV) through indoor tanning may be partially responsible for the continued increase in melanoma, especially among young women. Indoor tanning is particularly dangerous for younger and more frequent users.… Continue reading →

A national effort to help end colon cancer

By Richard C. Wender, MD

About a year ago, U.S. Assistant Secretary for Health Howard Koh, MD, invited a small group of people to his office to discuss the opportunity for the nation to start a full court press to end colorectal (colon) cancer as a major public health problem in the United States. The meeting idea came from a conversation on his back porch with his college friend Ron Vender, MD, who had just been elected President of the American College of Gastroenterology (ACG). Howard asked Ron how he could most effectively work with the ACG and, together, they decided that it was the right time to tackle colon cancer in a big way.

Dr. Koh invited leaders of the organizations that were at the center of public health efforts to increase colon cancer screening rates to attend the meeting. Screening is looking for cancer in people who have no symptoms of the disease. In the case of colon cancer, screening can find the disease at an early, more treatable stage, and it can also prevent it altogether. This is because colon cancer screening tests often find polyps, which can then be removed before they have a chance to become cancerous.… Continue reading →