News & Information | START In The News

September 20th, 2013
1200 WOAI
By: Jim Forsyth

Half of All Cancer Deaths Now 'Preventable'

Fully half of all cancer deaths in the United States are now preventable, a statistic which local cancer researchers say is encouraging, but will require very difficult lifestyle changes, 1200 WOAI news reports.

  The American Association for Cancer Research says cancer research efforts should be geared more toward preventing individuals from getting cancer in the first place.

   Dr Anthony Tolcher of san Antonio's START Center for Cancer Care, the region's leading cancer research and treatment practice, says that is promising in that we know the cause of more cancers, from lifestyle factors ranging from sitting in the sun to smoking, but dealing with these lifestyle factors can be problematic.

   "Changing our dietary habits, so we can perhaps deal with some of the malignancies which affect Americans far more than people in other parts of the world," he said.

   Tolcher said there is precedent if we look at changing these lifestyle factors over decades.  He points out incidence of adult cigarette smoking is down sharply in the United States, since the Surgeon General definitively linked smoking and cancer in 1964.

   Dr. Tolcher says another factor that makes cancer 'preventable' is making sure treating physicians provide proper treatments, something he said is also difficult.

   "With so many things changing so quickly, with new drugs and new therapies, we have to make sure that passes along to all the oncologists in the United States."

   The report points out that cancer is now killing roughly 580,000 Americans per year, but says that number has fallen substantially since 1990.  It says the cost of cancer on the U.S. economy, everything from treatment costs to the costs of lost productivity and wages, was more than $200 billion last year, and points out that those costs could be substantially reduced if we did a better job of tackling the lifestyle factors which are responsible for more and more cancers.

   It also points out that the huge Baby Boomer generation is now entering the time in their lives where cancer is more likely to appear, potentially driving up those costs.

   But Dr. Tolcher says the coming decade will see many breakthroughs in cancer treatment.  The report itself says the FDA so far this year has approved 11 news cancer therapies, about half of which target specific cancer defects.

   Tolcher says the number of cancer deaths in the coming decades, despite the large number of Americans in the dangerous cancer years of their fifties and sixties, will be sharply lower than the number who are dying today.

   "I have no doubt in my mind whatsoever, and the reason is that there are so many new therapies coming along, many of which have been designated as 'breakthrough' agents by the FDA."