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Amy Price
Human Biology 1090
Professor Barney
Are We Winning the War on Cancer?
American Cancer Society president John R. Seffrin makes his claim that
we are winning the war against cancer and that it is possible to defeat the
disease and eliminate it as a major public health problem. In the article John
R. Seffrin states that we now know more about cancer than ever before. We
know how to prevent it, and, we increasingly know how to cure it, especially
when its detected in the early stages. He mentions that if we fail to do the
right things, cancer will become the leading cause of death in the US by
2018 and worse, eventually, the leading cause of death in the world. Seffrin
says that science alone, public health alone, and public policy alone cannot
get us to where we need to be to defeat this awful disease. It will take a lot
of commitment and collaboration from all three areas to solve the issue.
The article continues with talking about how the American Cancer
Society is doing something that hasnt been done before. They are bringing
together two world conferences with 5,500 participants from more than 130
countries: oncologists, public health leaders, tobacco control advocates,
caner association leaders, health ministries, and journalists. They will not
only be talking about the cancer problem itself, but also on identifying and
sharing practical solutions that can make a lifesaving difference in
communities around the world.
John R. Seffrin says the US has been supportive of the adoption of the
first global public health treaty, yet the US has refused to ratify it. As of June
20, 2006, 131 countries already have ratified the treaty, and the United
States ratification is essential to turning the tide of the global tobacco
pandemic. When ratified and implemented, we know from experience that
human suffering will be reduced and lives will be saved.
Finally, Seffrin believes there are three actions it will take to eliminate
cancer as a major public health problem. First he says we need to push
forward with buffing up our cancer portfolio. Further progress is guaranteed if
research funding keeps pace. Secondly, we need to make screening tests
more available along with vaccinations like the HPV vaccine proven to

prevent cervical cancer. Thirdly with state-of-the-art cancer care available in

communities around the world, as many as 75 percent of cancer patients
could survive long-term. John R, Seffrin ends by saying that ultimately, the
challenge for all of us will be to do what we can to redouble our efforts in
pursuit of our common cancer-fighting goal.
In the second article Physician and professor of medicine Reynold
Spector argues that the progress made against cancer have been limited and
that over-all there has been little progress made in the war on cancer.
Spector points out, that in The New York Times, it was declared that from
1950 to 2006, cancer has only decreased by 5 percent. On the other hand
cardiovascular disease has fallen 74 percent since 1950 to 2006. Cancer
therapy is clearly decades behind and this is not good.
Reynold Spector continues to argue that if someone discovers a tumor
very early and starts therapy immediately, even if the therapy doesnt work,
it will appear that the patient lives longer than a second patient treated who
was detected later. He says there is still so much we dont know about
cancer. For example we do not know exactly how smoking causes cancer. In
some cancers, there are more than five hundred identifiable genetic
abnormalities and no one knows which one(s), if any, is causative. It is
quite possible that there is a completely unknown causal mechanism in
many cancers. Spector states that the pharmaceutical industry cannot make
real progress until we understand the mechanisms and molecular causes of
cancer so that scientists have real targets for intervention.
Professor Reynold Spector does however point out that there are still
things we can do today to help fight back. Smoking and hormone
replacement therapy are a cause of lung and breast cancer, and really
should be stopped or at least minimized. We can also vaccinate against HPV
which shows to be 100 percent effective. Another preventative step is to get
screenings for breast cancer, which also shows to be useful in spotting breast
cancer. If all these recommendations were followed, we could cut cancer
deaths in half. But our best option yet, would be mechanistic understanding
of cancer. Then we could make better drugs, as has been done in recent
years for atherosclerosis, hypertension, gastrointestinal diseases, and AIDS
with excellent results.
My position after reading both articles stands with Professor Reynold
Spector in saying that no, we are not yet winning the war on cancer. Saying
we are winning for sure is making a bold statement. Statistics show that we

just arent there right now. Although John R. Seffrin talks positively about the
future and what COULD happen, it hasnt happened yet and its surely not
happening quickly enough. Ideally finding out exactly what is causing cancer
and how to battle it more effectively is on everyones to do list, but this is a
very difficult battle. The treatment in fighting this terrible disease is known to
be worse than the cancer itself and the costs of treatments are through the
roof. Another disappointing factor is looking at it alongside of things like
heart disease and hypertension statistics, and where they started out, and
where they are today. Statistics show that there hasnt been as much
progress in cancer treatment as hoped. There are defiantly huge steps going
on that are heading in the right direction, but again to say we are winning is
an understatement.