Act Now Against Cancer, New ACS President Urges

The major cancer risk factors of tobacco, obesity, and infectious diseasea can and must be controlled before the disease becomes a greater burden on fragile health systems, particularly those of developing countries, the American Cancer Society's new president, Elizabeth T.H. "Terry" Fontham, dean of the LSU Health and Sciences Center's School of Public Health, said in a presidential editorial published in the current issue of CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. She calls for "coordinated global efforts against the major risk factors of tobacco, obesity, and infectious diseases, especially in low-income and middle-income countries where the cancer burden is growing the fastest and where resources are the most limited.

"We have identified the risk factors, and we know the appropriate control measures," Fontham continued. "Many of the most important interventions, such as vaccinating children and ensuring uncontaminated air, food, and water, are also among the simplest and most cost effective to implement. It is imperative that governments, industry, nongovernmental organizations, and individuals take action now, before the burden of acute diseases is replaced by the rising burden of cancer and other chronic diseases."

Cancer incidence and mortality rates are rising in low- and middle-resource countries, she wrote. She said the aging population is a risk factor, with the world's population older than 65 expected to rise from 550 million to 973 million by 2030. This increase "will further amplify the impact of rising cancer incidence rates on fragile medical, public health, and economic systems of countries that can least afford it and, thus, makes addressing the modifiable risk factors now more imperative," Fontham wrote.

She said infectious diseases cause about 17 percent of new cancers worldwide, with the most common for which preventive measures exist being human papilloma virus, hepatitis B and C viruses, HIV, and Helicobacter pylori.

Fontham, MPH, Dr.P.H., of New Orleans, and 10 other new ACS officers were elected to the 2008-09 National Board of Directors in November 2008 during the ACS annual meeting in New York City.

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