National Cancer Control Month is an annual campaign to call attention to cancer prevention, early detection, treatment, and research into its causes and treatment. Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States after heart disease. An estimated 600,000 Americans will die of cancer in 2018, and about 1.7 million new cases of cancer will be diagnosed. Forty out of every 100 men and 38 out of 100 women will develop cancer in their lifetimes.
Progress in fighting cancer is reflected in the death rate, adjusted for age. During most of the 20th century, the overall cancer death rate rose, mainly because of the tobacco epidemic. In 1991 the death rate peaked at 215 cancer deaths per 100,000 people. Because of a decline in smoking and improvements in cancer detection and treatment, the cancer death rate fell to 159 per 100,000 people in 2015, and 2.3 million fewer people died of cancer between 1991 and 2015.
Tobacco use plays a substantial role in the development of cancer. According to the Surgeon General, cigarette smoking increases the risk of 12 cancers (cancer of the oral cavity and pharynx, larynx, lung, esophagus, pancreas, uterine cervix, kidney, bladder, stomach, colorectum, and liver, and acute myeloid leukemia). Smoking prevalence has been reduced by more than half since the first Surgeon General’s report on smoking and health in 1964, and millions of premature deaths have been averted. Despite this good news, almost one-third of U.S. cancer deaths today are caused by smoking, partly because smoking rates remain as high in some population groups now as they were in the U.S. population as a whole in the 1970s. Targeting interventions to these high-smoking groups is one way to further reduce the cancer mortality rate. Much more can be done to further reduce the health and economic burden of tobacco.
Bizzell’s contract with the National Cancer Institute’s Tobacco Control Research Branch (TCRB) focuses on the part tobacco use plays in causing cancer. To prevent, treat, and control tobacco use, TCRB funds research grants, sponsors conferences, and communicates the findings of cutting-edge tobacco control science. The scope of TCRB’s activities is far-ranging. As examples: TCRB scientists study such topics as determinants of tobacco use, smokeless tobacco and other tobacco products, and tobacco-related disparities. TCRB research is helping develop a body of evidence on which the FDA can base its regulation of the manufacture, marketing, and distribution of tobacco products. And TCRB’s Smokefree.gov initiative provides free smoking cessation information and support accessible through the Web and mobile devices. Bizzell contract staff assist TCRB by analyzing data, conducting literature searches, facilitating collaborations between TCRB researchers and tobacco scientists from academic and international organizations, managing the process of publishing research findings, and performing many other functions that help TCRB fulfill its mission.
Many of us have been touched by cancer among our friends or loved ones or have experienced it ourselves. As President Obama said in 2016, with the large number of new cancer diagnoses expected each year, “we owe it to everyone currently living with [cancer], and to anyone at risk, to support all those working to defeat it. During National Cancer Control Month, let us remember those who lost their battle with cancer, and let us renew our efforts to save lives and spare heartbreak by reaching a future without this devastating disease.”