For the last two days I have had the pleasure and honor of meeting and listening to some of the most talented doctors talk about their research in developments in oncology at MD Anderson, the largest cancer center in the world. Just to sum up what they said: “mind blowing!” I wish I could translate it here for you, but it’s unbelievably complex and lengthy. Plus, I still don’t understand it all.
Dr. Ron DePinho, the new President of MD Anderson, offered us some very important insight I believe we all should carry with us daily:
The immune system doesn’t recognize cancer as foreign.
We don’t feel it and tumors continue to grow in our bodies. Therefore, it’s important to be screened regularly for all types of cancer.
Melanoma is caused by childhood sun exposure.
Seriously. That’s it. And that’s why we see it in 30 and 40 year-olds. UV rays are an environmental hazard we can control, and we should be vigilant with sunscreen. Good parents will demand their kids wear sunscreen EVERYDAY all the time. In Australia, kids aren’t allowed to go to school without a hat. Screening for melanoma has proven to decrease the mortality rate by 50%. Melanoma is the fastest growing cancer for women next to lung cancer.
Hopefully they will start a campaign so that the safety of sunscreen is engrained in our culture. Think about seat belts. Everyone hated them and refused to put them on. Now they’re mandatory and second nature for most of us.
The risk factors for cancer:
- Age. The longer we live, the more at risk we are to develop cancers.
- Environmental factors. UV rays are the most harmful. Pollution in the US is not as bad as you would think.
- Obesity. (More below)
- Smoking. Kids are born now with receptors that breed their addiction.
- Chronic stress.
“It is an embarrassment we aren’t more aggressive with tobacco control,”
stated Dr. DePinho, who pledges to lobby for legislation in Texas.
“It is unethical not to give your children the HPV vaccine,“
said the father of 2 and doctor who has seen a rapid increase in head and throat cancers from the virus. Thankfully pap smears allow doctors catch cervical cancer (caused by HPV) at an early stage so it can be treated.
Obesity will surpass smoking as a cause of cancer by 2020.
From what I gathered, the consumption of too many calories and processed sugars overloads your circuits, deactivating important mechanisms of your body. MD Anderson will launch an online cookbook and has already made major efforts to educate the public on the importance of nutrition.
Ways you can prevent cancer:
- “Do what your mother told you.” - Eat write, exercise, get enough rest.
- Control the things you can, like UV exposure, smoking, etc. Household chemicals and pollution are not as bad as you would think, but keep in mind what you need and don’t.
- Get enough Vitamin D. You need a 1000 units/day, which generally can be 10-20 minutes outside without sunscreen. (More here.)
- Get screened regularly. Don’t neglect going to see the doctor. Your visit is pennies on the dollar in relationship to what you will pay for treatment.
MD Anderson services adults and children in so many ways we don’t realize!
They have entire buildings dedicated to prevention. You can get your regular checkups here so they will also include screening in your assessment.
MD Anderson is making major strides for kids in their Children’s Hospital. THEY WILL SEE ANY CHILD DIAGNOSED OR SUSPECTED OF HAVING CANCER WITHIN 24 HOURS OF CALLING. (No matter where it was discovered or when it was diagnosed). Their new “hospital within a hospital” will centralize all of the treatments needed to make care more efficient and provides a fully accredited school that can give high school diplomas.
The mission of MD Anderson is: “Making Cancer History,” meaning eliminating the disease so our children read about it in books and never know the pain of it. Although they are the best in the world, they are working towards this goal everyday. It’s inspiring and I’m so happy to be a part of their team to educate the public and support their efforts.
EVERYONE IN THE WORLD IS AFFECTED BY CANCER IN SOME WAY.
We might have it or our loved ones do. There is never an effort - financial or otherwise - that is wasted in the fight against this disease.