Now, on World Cancer Day, We Already Have the Knowledge, Tools to Prevent So Many Cancers

In his State of the Union address, President Obama announced a “moonshot” program to fight cancer. In charge of that program, Vice President Biden has met with oncologists, scientists, and other leaders in the cancer field, and stated that, “We’re trying to get to a quantum leap on the path to a cure”

Anne McTiernan MD, PhD.

Anne McTiernan MD, PhD.

Much of the focus has been on Big Data, and on sharing science across institutions, in the effort to quickly move results from the lab to the public. In a nation where approximately four in ten people can expect to be diagnosed with invasive cancer in their lifetimes, we need big efforts to fight this disease.

Today, World Cancer Day, is a time to raise awareness of prevention: Cancer prevention needs to be a part of the renewed push against cancer.

Focusing only on the cure is like trying to douse a forest fire on one front while someone is lighting matches on another. The good news is that we already have the knowledge and tools here on earth to prevent a large proportion of cancers from developing, without reaching for the moon.

WCD adAvoidance of known carcinogens (including tobacco, excess radiation, sun and tanning), and use of vaccines for human papilloma and hepatitis B viruses, can prevent a wide range of cancers such as lung, skin, liver, cervix, mouth and throat. Screening and removal of premalignant lesions can prevent several cancers including those of the skin, colon, and cervix. Medications have been shown in clinical trials to prevent breast or prostate cancers in persons at high risk for those cancers. Continue reading


Carotenoid Foods May Protect Against Certain Breast Cancers

Looking for another reason to add carrots to your lunch or collard greens to dinner? Well, these are great sources of beta-carotene and alpha-carotene, types of carotenoids found in fruits and vegetables, And a new study suggests that women with higher blood concentrations of these carotenoids are at decreased risk of the type of breast cancer called estrogen receptor (ER) negative.

ER negative breast cancers do not have receptors for the hormone estrogen. These tumors are less common and often more difficult to treat than the more common ER-positive tumors that typically respond to estrogen.

Carotenoids in foodRecent studies, like this one, have linked carotenoids to decreased breast cancer risk.

The new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition included 1,502 women with breast cancer and 1,502 healthy controls from the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC) group.

Researchers chose to focus primarily on pre-menopausal and ER negative cancers because their review of the literature suggested that dietary carotenoids and fruit/ vegetable intake are more strongly related to these types of tumors.

Researchers compared prediagnostic blood levels of 6 carotenoids, including β-carotene and α-carotene as well as retinol, α-tocopherol, ϒ-tocopherol, and vitamin C for both groups. They took into account weight as well as other known risk factors for breast cancer.

Risk of ER negative breast cancer was 59 percent and 39 percent lower in women who had the highest blood concentrations of β-carotene and α-carotene respectively, compared to those who had the lowest levels. ER positive breast cancer risk was not associated with carotenoids or other nutrients.

Carotenoids are a large group of phytochemicals found in fruits and vegetables. You can usually recognize them by the orange, red, and yellow colors they give to foods. Many green leafy vegetables are also great sources.

These results may be another reason to consume more foods with beta carotene and alpha carotene. Supplements are not associated with the same decreased risk. And β-carotene in high-dose supplements, especially in smokers, seems to increase lung cancer risk and mortality.

The authors note that other factors including genetics and lifestyle can affect plasma carotenoid levels and may have affected the study results.

This study, and others, will be included in AICR/WCRF’s upcoming continuous update project report on breast cancer prevention. AICR’s previous review of the literature did not find a convincing link between foods containing carotenoids and breast cancer risk. Fruits and vegetables containing carotenoids are part of a cancer-preventive diet. AICR estimates that one-third of US breast cancers can could be prevented by maintaining a healthy weight, being physically active, and avoiding alcohol.

This study was supported by: Wereld Kanker Onderzoek Fond; Europe Against Cancer Program of the European Commission; Deutsche Krebshilfe, Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum; German Federal Ministry of Education and Research; Danish Cancer Society; Health Research Fund of the Spanish Ministry of Health, Spanish Regional Governments of Andalucia, Asturia, Basque Country, Murcia (No. 6236), and Navarra; Catalan Institute of Oncology, Red de Centros RCESP, C03/09, Spain; Cancer Research UK; Medical Research Council, United Kingdom; Stroke Association, United Kingdom; British Heart Foundation; Department of Health, United Kingdom; Food Standards Agency, United Kingdom; Wellcome Trust, United Kingdom; Helenic Health Foundation; Italian Association for Research on Cancer; Italian National Research Council, Fondazione-Istituto Banco, Napoli, Italy; Dutch Ministry of Public Health, Welfare and Sports; Dutch Prev ention Funds; LK Research Funds; Dutch ZON (Zorg Onderzoek Nederland); World Cancer Research Fund; Swedish Cancer Society; Swedish Scientific Council; Regional Government of Skane, Sweden; European Research Council; French League against Cancer; National Institute for Health and Medical Research, France; Mutuelle Généralede; Education Nationale, France; 3M Co, France; Gustave Roussy Institute, France; and General Councils of France.


It’s Cancer Prevention Month, Make Each Day Count

Today is February 1st.  Do you know what month it is?  Not a trick question – this is a very important time for us all here at AICR as February is National Cancer Prevention Month.  That means 29 days to shine a spotlight on the need for Americans to embrace and make healthy lifestyle changes to protect their health and reduce their cancer risk – and we are determined to make each day count.

It’s important to us because although there are huge strides being made in cancer treatment with new drug discoveries and precision medicine, these are expensive and come with their own challenges. We have a public health crisis — the number of cancer cases due to obesity and lack of physical activity will reportedly surpass those due to tobacco in 20 years. Prevention has the potential to save costs and suffering — and we need to think broadly about it as an effective strategy.

50-infographic-bigThe chances are that if you are reading this blog, you already know about and take some steps to reduce your own cancer risk as part of your daily life.  You might already know that an estimated one-third of US cancer cases could be prevented by eating healthy along with being active and a healthy weight. Many more could be prevented by not smoking and using sun protection. Maybe you try one of our health–e recipes, count your steps or watch your portion sizes on a regular basis.  So are we simply preaching to the choir? Continue reading