Letter from Editors

Issue 20, 2012

While our newsletter focuses on cancer and its prevention, it is worth recognizing that certain cancers are part of a spectrum of chronic diseases that plague the countries of the West or developed world, in contrast to the lower- or middle-income countries. These diseases, commonplace in the U.S., include heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and osteoporosis, as well as certain cancers, notably those of the breast, colorectum, and lung. And as the global economy pushes some countries into more affluent positions, the incidence of these same diseases has increased.

What do these diseases have in common? Apparently they share certain lifestyle and behavioral risk factors. These factors have been best identified in the context of coronary heart disease, where it is well understood that cigarette smoking, a diet enriched in saturated fat, obesity, and sedentary lifestyle can all contribute to increased risk. On the plus side, it suggests the means of prevention as well – tobacco cessation, low fat diet, weight loss, and physical activity. The prescription of these recommendations (in addition to hypertension control, cholesterol management and aspirin use) has led to a dramatic reduction in the incidence and mortality of coronary heart disease in the U.S. over the past two decades.

Cancer has a much longer latency period than heart disease, and so the studies to prove the efficacy of these preventive measures have been slower in coming. Tobacco cessation has certainly proven its worth. Links between physical activity, obesity, and certain cancers have been shown repeatedly. But the actual demonstration that weight loss and increased physical activity can reduce the incidence of cancer has been difficult to do, though most experts are certain it is true.

In this issue of the Newsletter, we report an update from the National Cancer Institute regarding the impact of increased physical activity on risk of breast cancer. The data put yet one more piece in the puzzle to prove that increased physical activity can indeed reduce the incidence of breast cancer. In another few years, preventive oncologists will undoubtedly be as confident in making the same prescriptions as preventive cardiologists are today

The Editors

Alfred I. Neugut, M.D., Ph.D.
Myron M. Studner Professor of Cancer Research
Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology
Associate Director for Population Sciences
Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center
Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons
and Mailman School of Public Health
Co-Director, Cancer Prevention Program
NewYork-Presbyterian Cancer Centers

Andrew J. Dannenberg, M.D.
Henry R. Erle, MD-Roberts Family Professor of Medicine
Weill Cornell Medical College
Co-Director, Cancer Prevention Program
NewYork-Presbyterian Cancer Centers