WASHINGTON -- The 2007 President's Cancer Panel blasted industry policies and government inaction for failing to help the public make lifestyle changes needed to protect against cancer.
WASHINGTON, Aug. 17 -- The President's Cancer Panel blasted industry policies and government inaction for failing to help the public make lifestyle changes needed to protect against cancer.
Calling the tobacco industry a "vector of disease and death," the panel's 2006-2007 report cited government failure to tax and regulate tobacco use and exposure to environmental smoke, the lack of available and affordable healthy foods, and limited physical education in school as having spawned a "culture that struggles to make healthy choices-a culture in dire need of change."
Appointed by the President, the panel members included Margaret L. Kripke, Ph.D., of M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, LaSalle D. Lefall, Jr., M.D., of Howard University, who served as chairman, and cycling champion and cancer survivor Lance Armstrong.
The year 2007 brought the steepest decline in cancer deaths ever recorded in the U.S., the panel members reported. Yet this year alone, they said, "more than half a million Americans will lose their battle with cancer. Tragically, nearly two-thirds of these deaths could have been prevented through changes in lifestyle."
Examining primary care and individual responsibility, the panel wrote that although efforts have been made to halt alarming obesity trends, the number of organizations and institutions committed to healthy living is still too small.
Physicians and health care providers have a crucial role in helping patients understand the increased risk for many cancers related to obesity, yet their efforts have been stymied by inefficient or absent policies, the panelists said.
For example, they noted, the services of a nutritionist or dietitian are seldom reimbursed outside of specialized cardiac or diabetes management programs.
The panel called for increasing disease prevention services, including providing physicians with more time to counsel patients, and ensuring that nutrition and physical activity interventions become an integral and reimbursable component of primary care.
The recommendations did not let patients off the hook, though. "Individuals -- to the best of their ability -- must assume personal responsibility for learning cancer risks associated with obesity and tobacco use in order to make healthy lifestyle choices for themselves and their families," the panel said.
The Panel's recommendations for diet and exercise were:
An extended list of recommendations to reduce smoking and environmental smoke exposure included:
"Individuals can only adopt healthy lifestyles if they have the resources and opportunities to do so," the panel wrote in a letter to the President. "We can and must empower individuals to make healthy choices through appropriate policy and legislation, and the Panel urges you to use the power of your office toward this life-saving goal."