Category Archives: Cancer

Jun 9 2014
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Public Heath Campaign of the Month: ‘Know: BRCA’

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has launched three very pink infographics aimed at raising awareness about breast cancer among young women who may not realize they can be at risk for the disease—usually because of a gene mutation inherited from their mother or father.

The campaign, called “Know:BRCA” uses pink for all three of the new infographics because that color is widely identified with breast cancer awareness campaigns. The graphics focus on:

  • Knowing about BRCA1 and BRCA2
  • Knowing that everyone has BRCA genes
  • Knowing your genetic risk factors
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According to the CDC, most breast cancers are found in women who are 50 years old or older. However, each year in the United States about 9,000 women younger than 40 are diagnosed with breast cancer. In this younger group the cancer is generally more aggressive, found at a later stage, has lower survival rates and can often be linked to a mutation in one or two genes called BRCA1 and BRCA2.

Usually the BRCA genes protect people from cancer, but mutations to the genes can increase the risk of breast and ovarian cancer in general and especially in younger women. Discussions with physicians and genetics counselors about family history of breast and ovarian cancer can determine the need to test for the gene mutations. And if the tests are positive, health care experts may advise preventive treatment to help avoid breast and ovarian cancer, such as long-term medication or prophylactic mastectomy—the surgery actress Angelina Jolie chose last year because of her family history of breast cancer.

Without treatment, women with a BRCA gene mutation are seven times more likely to get breast cancer and 30 times more likely to get ovarian cancer before age 70 than other women.

The goal of the new infographics is to encourage women to learn their family history of cancer and then talk to their doctor if they have:

  • Multiple relatives with breast cancer
  • Any relatives with ovarian cancer
  • Relatives who were diagnosed with breast or ovarian cancer before age 50

The CDC also recently released a new physician tool to help doctors advise young patients about BRCA testing and prophylactic treatment.

>>Bonus Link: Read a new New York Times story on the evolution of breast cancer treatment 

Apr 22 2014
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Public Health News Roundup: April 22

Study: False-Positive Mammograms Have Minimal Effect on Anxiety
Women whose mammograms suggest the presence of breast cancer that is eventually ruled out by further testing experience slightly increased anxiety that does not affect their overall health, according to a new study in the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) Internal Medicine. Researchers from the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College compared 534 cancer-free women whose mammograms initially suggested breast cancer to 494 women whose screenings were negative. The women were interviewed after the first mammogram but before they were cleared of a cancer diagnosis and again a year later. Immediately after their first mammogram, the women who received false-positive results had more anxiety than those who received a clean bill of health but the anxiety leveled off after one year. There was no difference in overall health between the two groups of women. Read more on cancer.

Bullying Victims Feel Psychological Effects into Middle Age
Children who are bullied suffer the psychological affects for years to come, leading to increased risk of depression and other mental health issues, according to a new study in the American Journal of Psychiatry. British researchers have found that children bullied at the ages of 7 and 11 experienced feelings of poor general health at ages 23 and 50 and poor cognitive functioning at 50. The study used surveys that were conducted over 50 years, looking at children who said they were bullied occasionally or frequently at 7 and 11, and comparing the impact at ages 23, 45 and 50. Read more on mental health.

Earth Day: The Impact of the Environment on Health
April 22 is Earth Day and people across the country are taking action to protect and improve our environment. The quality of our environmental has significant effects on our overall health. Air pollution, such as ground-level ozone and airborne particles, can irritate the respiratory system, induce asthma and even lead to lung disease. In addition, UV exposure due to ozone layer depletion can lead to skin cancer, cataracts and suppression of the immune system. Below are tips to help create a healthier planet today:

  • Conserve energy and improve air quality by turning off appliances and lights when you leave a room.
  • Keep stoves and fireplaces well maintained to reduce air pollution.
  • Plant deciduous trees near your home to provide shade from UV rays in the summer.
  • Buy energy efficient appliances produced by low- or zero-pollution facilities. 

Read more on environment.

Mar 4 2014
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NewPublicHealth Q&A: Clifford A. Hudis, MD, American Society of Clinical Oncology

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Several leading cancer organizations recently formed a think tank to address health disparities in cancer research with the goal of improving treatment access and outcomes for underserved populations. “Closing the inequality gap will not happen easily, and won’t get done if any of us goes it alone," said Otis W. Brawley, MD, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society (ACS), one of four groups involved, in addition to the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR); the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO); and the National Cancer Institute (NCI), a branch of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

“Cancer mortality rates are decreasing for most minorities, but absolute death rates continue to be higher," said NCI Deputy Director Doug Lowy, MD. Lowy adds that it’s  important to understand the sources of the disparities in order to reduce them.

The goal of the collaboration is to address the fact that that some racial and ethnic minorities in the United States are more likely to develop cancer, less likely to access high-quality cancer care and more likely to die from cancer when compared to others and to whites. For example, the death rate for cancer among African-American males is 33 percent higher than among white males, and the rate for African-American females is 16 percent higher than it is for white females.

“We must move from describing the problems to more quickly identifying and implementing solutions to address the racial and economic-based disparities that continue to affect many cancer patients and families in the United States,” said ASCO president Clifford A. Hudis, MD.

NewPublicHealth recently spoke with Hudis about the new collaboration.

NewPublicHealth: What key issues help explain—and then overcome—differences in cancer incidence and severity among different populations?

Clifford A. Hudis: We can’t completely disentangle environmental factors, which include nutrition, access to care, general health behaviors, exercise and education, which relates to behaviors such as tobacco use. And of course underlying that is the socioeconomic status. But there also is a burgeoning understanding of the role of genetic variations that may be clustered in various populations and may influence things such as drug metabolism and diseases.

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Aug 2 2013
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Summer Sun Protection Advice from the Sunny Skies of Los Angeles

Who better to offer up advice on summer sun protection than the Los Angeles County Health Department? Recently the department warned its residents to “practice summer sun smarts” to protect themselves from skin cancer, which, at 1 million diagnoses per year according to the Environmental Protection Agency, is now the most common form of cancer among Americans.

July is recognized as "UV Safety Month" to encourage everyone—not just those in Los Angeles—to protect themselves from ultraviolet (UV) rays, a major risk factor for most skin cancers, by using sunscreen and avoiding prolonged sun exposure during peak hours. “Simple sun safeguards can go a long way in protecting the health of you and your family this summer,” says Jonathan E. Fielding, MD, MPH, the departments’ director of public health.

In other summer sun safety news, this week the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and SAFE KIDS Worldwide partnered up to promote National Heatstroke Prevention Day this past Wednesday, July 31. NHTSA and their partners used this opportunity to educate parents on the dangers of leaving children in unattended vehicles in the summer heat, as there have already been over 20 heat-related deaths of children in cars this summer. Children’s body temperatures can spike three to five times faster than an adult’s, and even cool temperatures in the 60s can cause the temperature in the car to rise well above 110 degrees Fahrenheit—so safety steps are critical at all times.

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Jul 22 2013
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Public Health Campaign of the Month: Creative for Good

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>>NewPublicHealth is kicking off a new series to highlight some of the best public health education and outreach campaigns every month. Submit your ideas for Public Health Campaign of the Month to info@newPublichealth.org.

Why limit your good ideas for improving population health to just one country when all the world can be your stage—to share and learn?

That’s the thinking behind Creative for Good, a new website developed by the Ad Council, a non-profit developer of public service advertisements (PSA) in the United States, Ketchum Public Relations and the World Economic Forum. The new site offers more than 60 U.S. and international case studies and well as a primer to help organizations plan and execute their own PSAs. 

Creative for Good grew out of the World Economic Forum Summit in Dubai two years ago, with the goal of helping countries around the world increase the quantity and effectiveness of social cause marketing.  

PSA examples on the site include:

Either You Drink Or You Drive campaign video from Italy

Read more

May 1 2013
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Recommended Reading: Are Mammograms More Hopeful than Helpful?

For anyone who has ever had a mammogram, reminded someone to have a mammogram or sported anything pink for breast cancer awareness month, the New York Times has a thought-provoking article well worth reading. The author battled breast cancer twice and raises the interesting and controversial question of whether the uber-awareness campaign about breast cancer led to more mammograms than were necessary. The author argues that mammograms can result in early treatment—which comes with its own risks—but ultimately doesn’t save many lives. Studies cited show many women died despite early detection and many others, who underwent years of treatment for breast cancer, might never have been bothered by their breast tumors at all.  

The article arrives on the heels of a study in the journal Cancer that found that the proportion of women undergoing screening for breast cancer every year did not change after the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force advised that there was not enough evidence to support routine mammograms for women in their 40s.

Otis Brawley, chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society, weighed in on the Times article on the ACS Press room Blog and agreed that it is recommended reading: “This is a powerful and important article, one I believe every breast cancer advocate, and frankly even advocates for prostate and other cancers, should read,” wrote Brawley. “ It lays out the challenge that lies before us in reducing death and suffering from breast cancer, while demonstrating the challenge that we in public health face in how to accurately and truthfully administer information.”

>>Read the article.