Cancer prevention report highlights improvements, gaps

Smoking rates among US adults and youths have stalled over the past several years, but the increase in obesity appears to have slowed in the past decade.

This is just one of the bad news/good news examples presented by American Cancer Society (ACS) researchers in their new report, Cancer Prevention & Early Detection Facts & Figures 2011 (http://is.gd/k59853). The report details both the progress and shortcomings in cancer control efforts. Four areas that garner particular focus are tobacco use; overweight and obesity, physical activity, and nutrition; human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination for cervical cancer prevention; and cancer screening.

Among the tobacco-related findings is the fact that rather than decreasing, the smoking rate remained unchanged in the past 6 years among adults, and also did not change significantly among high-school students between 2003 and 2009.

In terms of weight, exercise, and diet, the ACS researchers estimate that 34.3% of adults and 18.1% of adolescents are obese. However, increasing rates of obesity observed since the 1980s seem to have slowed in the past decade, particularly among women and girls.

Among US females aged 13 to 17 years, 44% initiated the HPV vaccination series in 2009, up from 25% in 2007. Nearly 1 in 3 completed the entire series.

In cancer-screening measures, the ACS team found that mammography usage has not increased since 2000. In 2008, just over half (53%) of women 40 years and older reported undergoing mammography in the past year, although only 26% of women who lack health insurance participated in such testing. Similarly, persistent underuse of the Pap test was noted among uninsured women, as well as among recent immigrants and women with low education. Overall, however, 78.3% of adult women said in 2008 that they had had a Pap test in the preceding 3 years.

 Uninsured persons also had the lowest screening rates for colorectal cancer, but screening rates overall did increase from 38% in 2000 to 53.2% in 2008.

The ACS researchers contend that a coordinated effort among government, medicine, business, nonprofit groups, and the public is needed to increase the percentages of people who take positive steps to prevent cancer.

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