American Association for Cancer Research

Public Health Policy

More than half of all cancers are related to modifiable behavioral factors, including tobacco use, diet, physical inactivity, sun exposure, and failure to get cancer screenings. As cancer researchers uncover new insights that help understand how people perceive risk, make health-related decisions, and maintain healthy behavior, public policies can be put in place to decrease the public's risk of developing cancer.  

On this page you will find information about key policy issues that impact public health and the rate of cancer.

 

 

AGING AND CANCER  

 

Incidence and magnitude of cancer increase with age. According to the American Cancer Society, about 77 percent of all cancers are diagnosed in persons 55 years and older. Research into the relationship between cancer and aging promises to provide new insights that will ultimately lead to more effective ways to predict, prevent, and treat age-related cancers.

As the first of the baby boom generation reaches age 65 in 2011, the nation faces a virtual "cancer tsunami." A commitment to progress in cancer research through leadership and resources will be essential if we are to effectively address the health and economic challenges of an aging society.

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This report summarizes a public workshop sponsored by the Institute of Medicine's National Cancer Policy Forum on issues related to cancer and aging; including cancer rehabilitation, increased prevalence of cancer survivors, end of life care, the role of nurses, and Medicare costs in geriatric oncology.

This report identifies key older adult health issues, assesses the nation's success in addressing them, and provides suggestions and resources for further action.

 

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GENETIC TESTING AND PERSONALIZED MEDICINE

 

Genetic testing has the potential to increase awareness of an individual's inherited risk of getting cancer, and increase chances of successful treatment. The availability of personal genetic information, however, has raised concerns about privacy, abuse, and discrimination. There is fear that, without protection, individuals may not be willing to participate in medical research that is dependent upon such data.

In 2008, President Bush signed into law the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) to protect Americans against discrimination based on their genetic information when it comes to health insurance and employment. It is hoped that the measure will help people to take full advantage of the promise of personalized medicine without fear of discrimination.

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This report summarizes a workshop hosted by the Institute of Medicine's Roundtable on Translating Genomic-Based Research for Health to examine how to evaluate the clinical use of genomic information and the impact of genetic information in caring for patients.

This report summarizes the first workshop of the Institute of Medicine's Roundtable on Translating Genomic-Based Research for Health which focused on the translation of genomics from the research setting into health care.

 

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CANCER HEALTH DISPARITIES 

 

Many minority and underserved population groups suffer disproportionately from cancer. Multidisciplinary research is helping to uncover major factors in cancer disparities, such as tumor biology, genetics, hormonal status, lifestyle and behavior, screening policies, comorbidities, environmental exposure and risk, quality of and response to therapy, and post-therapeutic surveillance. Understanding and pursuing ways to address these complex and interconnected contributing factors will significantly reduce the cancer burden in the United States.

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This report reviews different methods for measuring progress toward the goal of eliminating cancer-related health disparities.

Using case studies, this report analyzes the performance and appropriateness of various potential measures of health disparities.

 

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NUTRITION, OBESITY AND CANCER

 

Poor nutrition and physical inactivity are leading causes of growing obesity rates in the U.S. and throughout the world, putting individuals at increased risk of developing and dying from chronic disease such as cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the prevention of obesity would help reduce the risk for many of the most common cancers, such as colon, postmenopausal breast, uterine, esophageal, and renal cell cancers. NCI estimates that 20 to 30 percent of these cancers may be related to being overweight and/or lack of physical activity.

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This report offers a series of recommendations on preventing and reducing obesity in the U.S., which it contends will reduce rates of cancer and other chronic disease.

 

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CANCER PREVENTION

 

Cancer prevention is multifaceted. It involves research that not only helps inform healthy, risk-reducing behaviors, but helps understand why some people may be more likely to develop cancer than others, despite lifestyle. Through the identification of biological indicators, or biomarkers, for example, scientists are learning how to predict individual cancer risk. New therapies are also coming through the pipeline that can stop cancer before it starts in those people found to be at risk.

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TOBACCO & CANCER

 

According to the American Cancer Association, tobacco use is a major preventable cause of cancer, accounting for at least 30 percent of all cancer deaths and 87 percent of lung cancer deaths. The greatest cancer prevention measure that might be undertaken would be for people not to smoke.

In June 2009, President Obama signed The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act into law, officially granting the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authority to regulate the production and marketing of tobacco products. Short of giving the FDA power to ban tobacco products or eliminate nicotine completely, the law empowered the agency to regulate levels of nicotine and other ingredients, as well as force greater disclosure of the contents of tobacco products and restrict false or misleading advertising.

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A comprehensive report on smoking and health, revealing for the first time that smoking causes diseases in nearly every organ of the body.

 

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