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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Aspirin to Prevent Cancer?

Aspirin, also known as the “Wonder Drug,” now has additional support for that moniker.   Three studies were published yesterday in Lancet and Lancet Oncology that demonstrate aspirin’s ability to prevent cancer.  Researchers have known that aspirin reduces the long-term risk of death due to cancer, with the strongest evidence for colon cancer.  One of the studies provides additional evidence that aspirin reduces the number of cancer cases and cancer deaths in the short-term (within 5 years) as well. That study also found that the risk of major bleeding as a side effect of aspirin use actually decreased with extended use.

The two other studies demonstrated that aspirin prevents distant cancer spread and suggest that aspirin might help in the treatment of some cancers.   An editorial that accompanied these articles—co-authored by Dr. Andy Chan, a member of Partnership’s Council on Aspirin for Health and Prevention—stated that this evidence is compelling and concluded that new guidelines for using aspirin cannot separate its benefit in preventing heart attacks and strokes from preventing cancer.  Therefore, it’s likely that aspirin for cancer prevention will soon be a recommended clinical preventive service.  In light of the recent controversy regarding the benefits and risks of aspirin for preventing cardiovascular disease, this new research adds significant weight to both the benefits of aspirin and that aspirin should be included in the therapeutic arsenal to fight cancer.

Jason Spangler, MD, MPH
Chief Medical Officer

Posted by: Alyson Hazen Kristensen at 12:00 AM
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Labels: aspirin, cancer, prevention

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Hard-Hitting “Tips from Former Smokers” Advertisements Will Save Lives

Partnership for Prevention applauds the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) today as it launches the national tobacco education campaign, “Tips from Former Smokers,” which depicts the harsh reality faced by real people who are suffering through illnesses caused by smoking and secondhand smoke. In these advertisements, former smokers bravely expose their smoking-related conditions, such as stomas, paralysis from stroke, lung removal, heart attack, and limb amputations. People are aware that smoking kills, but that’s only one part of the story—it can also lead to debilitating health problems at a relatively young age and rob many smokers of their independence. The advertisements underscore the immediate damage that smoking can cause to the body and feature real people who were diagnosed with life-altering diseases, some before they were 40 years old.

The CDC campaign is an important counter to the aggressive tobacco industry marketing efforts that make smoking look glamorous and mature. The tobacco industry spends $1 million every hour - $10.5 billion annually - to market and promote its products. Every two days, the tobacco industry spends approximately what the CDC has budgeted for this entire 12-week campaign. The tobacco industry has been successful in persuading youth to start smoking, as 80% of young smokers smoke one of the three most heavily advertised cigarette brands.

The scientific evidence is clear that one of the best ways to reduce the power of tobacco industry marketing is through aggressive public education campaigns. Released last week, the Surgeon General’s Report, Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults, concluded that adequately funded anti-tobacco media campaigns reduces tobacco use among youth, and the greater the exposure, the less likely youth are to smoke. There is also sound evidence supporting the use of hard-hitting images and messages to encourage smokers to quit and keep children from starting. A systematic review of the literature on the impact of mass media campaigns found that messages that used graphic images and/or testimonials to portray the negative consequences of smoking were found to be most effective at generating increased knowledge and quitting behavior.

The “Tips from Former Smokers” campaign is an important step in reducing the toll that smoking-related illnesses take on real people and their loved ones. Each year in the United States an estimated 443,000 people die due to smoking related illness, and for every person that dies from smoking, another 20 live with smoking-related illness.  It is important to listen to the voices of former smokers because they understand the where tobacco addiction can lead. Their stories can save lives by encouraging people to quit smoking and preventing young people from taking up this life-threatening addiction.

David Zauche
Senior Program Officer
Partnership for Prevention

Posted by: Alyson Hazen Kristensen at 12:00 AM
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Friday, March 9, 2012

Surgeon General Report Highlights the Issue of Youth Tobacco Use

Yesterday, Surgeon General Regina Benjamin called upon the nation to make the next generation tobacco-free, and Partnership for Prevention stands firmly behind her effort to prevent the serious health consequences of nicotine addiction. Far too many youth and young adults are still using tobacco. Today, more than 600,000 middle school students and 3 million high school students smoke cigarettes. The decline in cigarette smoking has slowed in the last decade and the decline in smokeless tobacco use has stalled completely. If we had continued the successes in reducing youth tobacco use that were made between 1997 and 2003, there could be 3 million fewer young smokers today.

The 31st tobacco-related Surgeon General’s Report Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and Young Adults describes the epidemic of tobacco use among youth ages 12-17 and young adults ages 18-25. It is vital to prevent tobacco use in this age group since virtually no one begins smoking after age 25. Nearly 90% of smokers start smoking by age 18 and 99% start before age 26. Additionally, the younger people are when they start using tobacco, the more likely they will become addicted. About 3 out of 4 teen smokers end up smoking until adulthood, and a third of those who persist in smoking will die prematurely.

It is no accident that youth are taking up smoking—they are constantly surrounded by social and environmental influences that glamorize tobacco use and make it seem like the social norm. Youth see tobacco use in the movies they watch, the video games they play, the websites they visit, and in the communities where they live. Tobacco companies spend more than a million dollars an hour in this country alone to market their products, and more than 80% of underage smokers choose the top three most heavily advertised brands. The industry is also coming out with new products to appeal to the younger generation, including candy-flavored cigars and smokeless tobacco products that look like dissolvable mints.  Youth who are exposed to cigarette advertising, images of smoking in movies, or have friends or siblings that smoke are more likely to start using tobacco themselves.

It is critical that we improve the health of the next generation by preventing the onset of tobacco use, both to save lives and health care dollars. If comprehensive tobacco control programs are fully funded at levels recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and states adopt the strategies outlined in this Surgeon General’s report, youth smoking rates can be cut in half in 6 years. We know what works — comprehensive efforts that include mass media campaigns, higher tobacco prices, smoke-free laws and policies, evidence-based school programs, and community-wide efforts. Additionally, adult tobacco cessation as a secondary tobacco prevention strategy for youth should be considered:  if less parents, teachers, coaches, actors, and musicians smoke we will be more likely to create a culture in which smoking is de-normalized and smoke-free lifestyles are embraced by young people.

It is essential that we respond to the Surgeon General’s call to action and redouble our efforts to accelerate the decline in youth and young adult tobacco use. America’s future depends on it!

David Zauche
Senior Program Officer

Posted by: Alyson Hazen Kristensen at 12:00 AM
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Labels: smoking, surgeongeneralreport, tobacco, youth