Sunday, January 08, 2012

Lifestyle Diseases 11: Obesity and Cancer

Some good news and bad news here. The good news is that death from cancer is declining, at least in the US. The American Cancer Society released two days ago its report, Annual Report: More Than a Million Cancer Deaths Avoided in 2 Decades:

...A total of 1,638,910 new cancer cases and 577,190 deaths from cancer are projected to occur in the U.S. in 2012. Between 1990/1991 and 2008, the most recent year for which data is available, overall death rates decreased by about 23% in men and 15% in women. This translates to more than 1 million deaths from cancer that were avoided....

The American Cancer Society estimates that about one-third of cancer deaths in 2012 will be caused by tobacco use and another third will be related to overweight or obesity, physical inactivity, and poor nutrition.

Each year, American Cancer Society researchers include a special section in “Cancer Facts & Figures” highlighting an issue of cancer research or care. This year, the topic is cancers with increasing incidence trends. Despite a decline in the rates of the most common cancers, there has been an increase in the rates of several less common cancers: pancreas, liver, thyroid, kidney, melanoma of the skin, esophageal adenocarcinoma (a kind of esophagus cancer), and some kinds of throat cancer associated with HPV (human papillomavirus) infection.

The increase in the rate of new cases varied among population groups. Rates for HPV-related throat cancer and melanoma increased only in whites. Esophagus cancer rates increased in whites and Hispanic men. Liver cancer rates increased in white, black and Hispanic men, and in black women. Rates for thyroid and kidney cancers increased in all racial and ethnic groups except for American Indian/Alaska Native men.

Reasons for the increased rates are not entirely known. But increases in esophagus, pancreas, liver, and kidney cancers may be linked to obesity. It’s also possible that more of these cancers are being reported because of better early detection practices. These rising trends are part of the additional burden associated with an expanding and aging population, and call for additional research to determine the cause.

Yes, there are several reasons why cancer death is declining for some types of cancer, like early detection, changed and improved lifestyle, and newer and more powerful medicines. But as the report added, there is also an increase in the incidence of new types of cancer especially those that are directly related to unhealthy lifestyle like obesity, smoking and sedentary living. Only about one-third of the causes can be due to genetics and internal factors, the two-thirds are due to unhealthy lifestyle.

Of course the good news is that the average lifespan of people keep rising as infectious and communicable diseases are now more easily treated compared to many years ago, which reduces death rate now. And speaking of new medicines, the US FDA has approved last year seven new drugs against cancer:

1. Zytiga (albiraterone acetate) for late-stage prostate cancer
2. 2. Zelboraf (vemurafenib) and companion genetic test for late-stage melanoma
3. Xalkori (crizotinib) and companion genetic test for late-stage lung cancer
4. Yervoy (ipilimumab) for late-stage melanoma (skin cancer
5. Adcetris (brentuximab vedotin) to treat two types of lymphoma
6. Caprelsa (vandetanib) to treat thyroid cancer
7. Halaven (eribulin mesylate) for metastatic breast cancer.

See FDA's  Notable FY 2011 Approvals.

Now here's a piece of good news: there are nearly 900 new drugs under various phases of R&D and clinical trials being developed by the US' pharma companies and biotech research firms. See the report here, Nearly 900 Medicines and Vaccines in Testing Offer Hope in the Fight Against Cancer. It's 92 pages long.

But while developing new and more powerful medicines against various type of cancer will definitely help, preventive healthcare like healthy diet, non- or reduced smoking and heavy drinking will greatly help.

The rising death for some diseases due to unhealthy lifestyle should not be used as an excuse to allow governments to intervene further in healthcare, like imposing new rounds of drug price control and/or patent and IPR-busting policies. People and governments should be thankful that while many people tend to be not-so-responsible in handling their own body, some enterprises keep doing expensive R&D and clinical trials to give these people a second or more chance in life. People who survive cancer and other life-threatening diseases are not likely to abuse or continue to abuse, their body.

See also:
Lifestyle Diseases 1: Obesity, February 04, 2011
Lifestyle Diseases 2: Killer diseases in the Philippines, March 16, 2011
Lifestyle Diseases 3: Causes of Mortality in the Philippines, August 10, 2011
Lifestyle Diseases 4: The UN on NCDs, September 24, 2011
Lifestyle Diseases 5: NCDs Global Picture, September 30, 2011
Lifestyle Diseases 6: Personal Care against NCDs, October 14, 2011
Lifestyle Diseases 7: Drinking and Healthcare, October 18, 2011
Lifestyle Diseases 8: WHO and the NCDs, December 08, 2011
Lifestyle Diseases 9: Overeating and Food Poisoning, December 24, 2011
Lifestyle Diseases 10: Financing Healthcare vs NCDs, December 30, 2011

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