We have the knowledge and technology to reduce global cancer deaths

The world does not need to wait for new cures to prevent cancer deaths, according to David Hunter, Vincent L. Gregory Professor in Cancer Prevention at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. In an editorial published online October 13, 2016 on The Conversation and republished in The Guardian, Hunter outlined ways that scaling up existing preventive interventions and available treatments over the next 20 to 30 years could save millions of lives around the world.

While the recommendations recently released by Vice President Joe Biden’s Cancer Moonshot Blue Ribbon Panel, which aims to accelerate a new national effort “to end cancer as we know it,” are US-focused and mainly centered on developing new therapies, he wrote, existing knowledge and technology can make a quicker impact globally. Among his recommendations are increasing use of vaccines, including those for hepatitis B, which raises risk of liver cancer, and human papillomavirus (HPV), which can cause cervical cancer.

Hunter also recommends continuing efforts to reduce smoking. Lung cancer rates have fallen in the United States as smoking rates have declined, but it remains the most common cause of cancer death in the U.S. and around the world. He says that if the United States is serious about cancer control, it should ratify the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, the international blueprint on policies to reduce smoking. The U.S. is one of only seven countries that has signed but not ratified the convention.

“For the cancers we cannot prevent, we will always need new and better therapies. But we should not wait for future cures to do what we can to prevent cancer deaths around the world,” Hunter wrote.

Read The Conversation editorial: We could prevent millions of cancer deaths each year with knowledge we already have

Greater focus needed on cancer prevention (Harvard Chan School news)