Cancer, cancer everywhere?

July 27, 2009 by  
Filed under health

A friend of mine just died of cancer last week. He was fifty.

I suppose you get to a certain age, and the disease seems to crawl out from around the corners all around you. You hear the statistics – one out of two men and one out of three women will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lifetimes.  Yet, then I read that “cancer death rates have steadily declined in the U.S. over the past fifteen years, and they are expected to do so again” according to the American Cancer Society. Hard to believe that from the period of 1990 – 2005, cancer death rates decreased by 19.2 percent in men. Women’s rates from roughly the same time period (1991 – 2005) death rates decreased by 11.4%. Much of the decline is due to increased screening (leading to an earlier diagnosis) and then there are improved treatments.

It may be of some comfort to know that about a third of the expected cancer deaths will be linked to behavior-related factors, such as obesity, poor nutrition, and lack of physical activity. And then there is the issue of indoor tanning and overexposure to the sun. There also may be more to the element of nutrition, antioxidants, and prevention. (See www.anticancer.com for more information.)

On the other hand,  that is only one third of the story. What about the other two thirds?  My friend who just past away was one of those guys that drank red wine occasionally, ate well, had a balanced and very happy life, and was really in shape. Why him? There was no cancer in his family, and certainly he lead a very healthy lifestyle. Truth is, his oncologist said that some of us will get cancer just because of “dumb luck”.  And that is what makes this (and many other diseases) very scary.

To be optimistic, there is a world of positive forward movement with our battle against cancer. Three cancer vaccines (for prostate cancer, melanoma and lymphoma)have achieved positive results in Phase 3 clinical trials. These vaccines wouldn’t prevent the disease, but they may help people who are already fighting it. Additionally, we currently have two cancer vaccines that have FDA approval and both are strictly preventive as they target viruses that can lead to cancer. One is the vaccination that fights hepatitits B, the other, a vaccine for HPV, which is recommended for adolescent girls. The progress we’ve made is astounding, and the fight against cancer is finally taking center stage.

If you’re feeling helpless and wonder what you can personally do to help the cause, join the grassroots movement of CPS-3, the Cancer Prevention Study-3. The American Cancer is looking for men and women between the ages of 30 and 65  who have no personal history of cancer to join a historic research study. The ultimate goal is to enroll 500,000 adults from various racial/ethnic backgrounds from across the U.S. According to their website, “The purpose of CPS-3 is to better understand the lifestyle, behavioral, environmental and genetic factors that cause or prevent cancer and to ultimately eliminate cancer as a major health problem for this and future generations.” Contact your local Relay for Life to see if you can get on-board.

And in the meantime, follow the lifestyle advice given by physicans and be thankful that there is an active research community fighting on the behalf of all of us.

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