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Using Research to Prevent Cancer

Photo of a group of researchers

Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States, claiming the lives of more than half a million Americans every year.1 CDC’s Division of Cancer Prevention and Control researches better ways to prevent cancer and support people with cancer.

For example, recent publications include findings on cancer survival rates, cancers associated with overweight and obesity, colorectal cancer screening capacity, and cancer prevention in young adults. These and other findings provide important evidence about cancer risks and how to avoid them, as well as a clearer picture of cancer in the United States. Below are recent highlights of some of the ways CDC’s Division of Cancer Prevention and Control is advancing cancer research.

Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer2

Every year since 1998, CDC, the American Cancer Society, the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries, and the National Cancer Institute have published this report. It provides an update of rates of cancer incidence (new cases) and deaths, and discusses whether these rates are changing. The most recent report, published in March 2017, shows that death rates from all cancers combined continued to go down for men, women, and children in the United States.

The report also includes an in-depth analysis of a specific cancer topic; this year it was cancer survival rates. A few key findings include—

  • Since 1975, five-year survival rates for cancer have improved in the United States.
  • Survival rates varied by race, ethnicity, and state because of biological differences, socioeconomic status, and access to health care.

Vital Signs: Cancer and Obesity3

Overweight and obesity is one of the leading preventable cause of cancer, causing at least 13 types of cancer. Most types of cancers associated with overweight and obesity increased from 2005 to 2014. Many things are associated with cancer, but avoiding tobacco use and keeping a healthy weight are among the most important things people can do to lower their risk of getting cancer.

Research Nominated for the Charles C. Shepard Science Award

The Charles C. Shepard Science Award is presented to the best manuscript on original research published by a CDC or Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) scientist in a reputable, peer-reviewed journal. Nominees for the 2016 Shepard Award included the following paper from CDC’s Division of Cancer Prevention and Control.

Colorectal Cancer Screening: Estimated Future Colonoscopy Need and Current Volume and Capacity4

A 2016 study published in the journal Cancer was the first to evaluate whether there is enough colonoscopy capacity to reach the goal of screening 80% of the eligible population for colorectal cancer by 2024. It combined microsimulation modeling with traditional survey methods. It found that this capacity does exist, but only if colonoscopies are performed per recommended guidelines. Public health and clinical communities can use this information to ensure that colonoscopy resources are used as recommended.

Cancer Prevention During Early Adulthood5

We can lower a person’s chance of getting cancer at different ages, even during early adulthood. CDC sponsored a special issue in the journal American Journal of Preventive Medicine about factors that may affect a young adult’s chance of getting cancer. Papers in this issue highlight the importance of working together to address potential cancer causes and risk factors. This research suggests that we can take steps today to set a course for a long, healthy life.

References

1U.S. Cancer Statistics Working Group. United States Cancer Statistics: 1999–2014 Incidence and Mortality Web-based Report. Atlanta: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and National Cancer Institute; 2017.

2Jemal A, Ward EM, Johnson CJ, Cronin KA, Ma J, Ryerson B, Mariotto A, Lake AJ, Wilson R, Sherman RL, Anderson RN, Henley SJ, Kohler BA, Penberthy L, Feuer EJ, Weir HK. Annual report to the nation on the status of cancer, 1975–2014, featuring survival. Journal of the National Cancer Institute 2017;109(9):1312–1337.

3Steele CB, Thomas CC, Henley SJ, Massetti GM, Galuska DA, Agurs-Collins T, Puckett M, Richardson LC. Vital Signs: trends in incidence of cancers associated with overweight and obesity—United States, 2004-2014. MMWR 2017;66(39);1052–1058.

4Joseph DA, Meester RG, Zauber AG, Manninen DL, Winges L, Dong FB, Peaker B, van Ballegooijen M. Colorectal cancer screening: Estimated future colonoscopy need and current volume and capacity Cancer 2016;122(16):2479–2486.

5Opportunities for Cancer Prevention During Early Adulthood. American Journal of Preventive Medicine 2017;53(S1).

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