Cancer Prevention: Skinnier, Wealthier & Healthier

by Andi Dwyer, Director of Health Promotion 

A few weeks ago at the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting, prevention was a hot topic! The news of prevention and exploring opportunities for early detection was extremely interesting. Before the next ASCO meeting, I have high hopes that we all can identify ways to bring early detection and prevention, for not just us, but others as well.  My contribution – I need to lose some weight!

Skinnier & Wealthier

Speakers and presenters at the ASCO meeting noted that the impact of obesity on cancer is an initiative and priority. It is estimated that one-third of all adults and 17 percent of children are obese within the United States.

While the ramifications for health are not fully understood, we do know that there is a link between obesity and cancer. ASCO meetings highlighted specific mechanisms and in colorectal cancer:

  • If someone is obese at the time of diagnosis, they are at high risk of recurrence and mortality (based on those participating in trials for stage II and stage III colorectal cancer)
  • In the uninsured population alone, from 2000 to 2005, there was a 490 percent increase in medical expenditures directly tied to obesity and cancer

Obesity is hitting us in the waistline… and the pocket… even when it comes to cancer.

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Two areas related to colorectal cancer prevention were also discussed and had studies presented:  genetic testing and screening.

Genetic Testing

The role of genetic testing for familial and hereditary cancers is quickly evolving with the development of the next generation of testing.

Genetic testing for survivors and family members might not only be limited to testing for one genetic mutation, we may now be able to check for several types of genes that have ramifications for clinical impact beyond a single cancer.

Dr. Stephen Gruber, director of the Norris Cancer Center at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, California presented in-panel discussion and stated that:

For  patients who have tested positive for Lynch/MSI, there may be a 3.5-7 percent chance that they may test positive for genetic mutations related to other cancer types.

Technology has now progressed so much that there are additional tests within these new panels that may be able to detect Lynch/MSI that were not previously available. It’s best to speak with your doctor about how to move forward in this area. Ask!

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And alas, screening was also discussed. A study presented noted that with tailored intervention,  African American patients with telephonic navigation were more apt to receive colorectal cancer screening. However, the increase in the group who received navigation versus those who did not was only a 14 percent difference. Both the control group and the navigated group had a screening rate of under 40 percent.

We know that certain groups are at the highest need for colorectal cancer screening, (the uninsured, certain races/ethnicities, family history and those who should be following screening guidelines for surveillance after a cancer diagnosis.) Of course, everyone 50 or older should also be screened if they are average risk.

But the point remains – there is still a huge opportunity to prevent colorectal cancer through screening. Talk to your doctor, know your risk or encourage a family member.

Screening Resources:

So – how are you going to prevent colorectal cancer?

Three to choose from, what’ll it be? If you achieve a healthy weight, know your genetic risk and get screened, you’ll be skinnier, wealthier and healthier.

I’ll let you know how my weight loss goes by next ASCO.


Read Andi’s previous ASCO recap

Need colorectal cancer resources? Check out the Guide in the Fight.

More on genetic syndromes