Monday, April 7th is World Health Day

Dr. Margaret Cuomo is the author of “A World Without Cancer: The Making of a New Cure and the Real Promise of Prevention.”

World Health Day, April 7th, is a great opportunity to focus our attention on what should be an American priority: cancer prevention.

Scientific evidence tells us that over 50 percent of all cancers are preventable by applying what we know right now. Attention to diet, exercise, avoiding alcohol, protecting our skin from the sun, managing stress and, of course, ending smoking all contribute to significantly reduce cancer risk. These are the “broad strokes” of cancer prevention. The devil is in the details, and people need to know which foods, what kind of exercise, how to manage stress, etc. There are highly-effective strategies to prevent cancer, but we need to learn them. We should be teaching our children about the kinds of foods that reduce cancer risk and encouraging them to stay physically active to prevent cancer and other diseases. Anti-smoking education should focus on the young as well as adults, emphasizing that “It’s not cool to smoke, because there’s nothing cool about cancer.”

Learning that whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables can help prevent many cancers, including cancers of the prostate, breast, mouth, throat, esophagus, lung, colon, kidney, pancreas, thyroid, gallbladder, and probably other cancer types is a powerful lesson that can have a significant impact on children’s lives. In many cases, children who have been taught about cancer-preventing strategies can become the role models and teachers for their parents.

Our fruits, vegetables and grains should be free of harmful pesticides that promote cancer. Our cattle, poultry and fish should not be exposed to antibiotics or hormones that will be harmful to their human consumers. Our personal care products, such as shampoo and deodorant and toothpaste; cosmetics, such as lipstick, mascara and eyeliner; and our household cleaning products should be free of chemicals that disrupt our hormones, and increase our cancer risk.

The scientific and medical community, including the World Health Organization and the American Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Reproductive Society, are speaking out against the harmful chemicals in our environment.

In a joint Committee Opinion issued by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (The College) and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine in September 2013, obstetricians and gynecologists were urged to advocate for government policy changes to identify and reduce exposure to toxic environmental agents.

Among the reproductive and health problems associated with exposure to these toxic chemicals, these powerful medical groups listed childhood cancers, miscarriage and stillbirth impaired fetal growth and low birth weight, preterm birth, birth defects, cognitive/intellectual impairment and thyroid problems.

In 2010, the President’s Cancer Panel issued a scathing report entitled, Reducing Environmental Cancer Risk: What We Can Do Now,” in which it stated: “The true burden of environmentally induced cancer has been grossly underestimated.”

It takes a village to support cancer prevention. Government and the industries producing our food, personal care products and cosmetics, household and industrial cleaning products, fertilizers and pesticides should be partners in the effort to ensure that our food is pure and healthful, and that the products used on our bodies and our farms, in our homes, schools and businesses aren’t cancer-causing. Less Cancer, a not-for-profit organization founded by Bill Couzens, seeks to educate individuals and raise awareness that results in the protection of human health, the environment, and our economy. Less Cancer’s work on health and the environment spans a wide range of issues, including specific contaminants, pollution sources and also healthy lifestyle choices, such as diet, exercise, and smoking cessation. While we work to protect all communities, our approach is particularly relevant to at-risk populations, such as children, low-income communities, and workers. Less Cancer’s ultimate goal is to reduce incidences of diagnosed cancer in all people. As a Less Cancer board member, I am honored to be a part of this vital mission.

A World Without Cancer, the book I wrote in 2012, is my personal journey with cancer as a doctor, a diagnostic radiologist and experiencing cancer’s horrific effects on my patients, friends, and family. The good news is that cancer is not an inevitability for us. Whether we are adults or children, members of the media or medical community, government, industry or cancer advocacy group, we can all contribute to a healthier environment, a stronger, more vibrant society, and ultimately, to a world without cancer. If we fully dedicate ourselves to the prevention of cancer, this impossible dream will become a reality.

Margaret I. Cuomo, M.D., is a board-certified radiologist and served as an attending physician in diagnostic radiology at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y. for many years. Specializing in body imaging, involving CT, Ultrasound, MRI and interventional procedures, much of her practice was dedicated to the diagnosis of cancer and AIDS. She is the daughter of former New York Governor Mario Cuomo and Mrs. Matilda Cuomo and sister to Governor Andrew Cuomo and ABC’s Chris Cuomo. She resides in New York. Cuomo’s book, A World Without Cancer, was published October 2012 by Rodale.

Guest Blog Post: Mammography – A Limited Tool for Early Detection of Breast Cancer

Dr. Margaret Cuomo is the author of “A World Without Cancer: The Making of a New Cure and the Real Promise of Prevention.”

Margaret I. Cuomo, M.D. is a Board-certified radiologist; Board member, Lesscancer; Author, ‘A World Without Cancer;’ and T.J. Martell Foundation Women of Influence honoree. She wrote the following post on this week’s mammography report for HuffingtonPost.com, which we excerpt below:

Mammography has been the gold standard for early detection of breast cancer since the 1970s but has been surrounded by controversy more recently. In 2009, the United States Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recommended that routine screening mammography begin at age 50, and that screening should be optional for younger women. Mammograms performed every two years, rather than annually, was advised for women of average risk of breast cancer.

The American Cancer Society, American College of Radiology, and others opposed the USPTF recommendations and supported annual mammograms and also advised annual mammography for women younger than 50.

This week, a study in Cancer by Blake Cady, M.D., of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, and co-authors reported that annual mammography has a definite survival benefit for young and older women:

Regular screening increases the likelihood of detecting nonpalpable cancers (cancers that cannot be detected by physical examination), and annual screening further increases the likelihood relative to biennial screening.

These authors also analyzed breast cancer and non-breast cancer deaths by age and discovered that half of all breast cancer deaths occurred in women younger than age 50, and 69 percent before age 60.

What Dr. Cady and his colleagues are not examining is the effect on cancer risk due to the radiation exposure of annual mammograms beginning at a young age.

Other scientific studies have reported on the radiation risk from screening mammography in women younger than age 50, especially among women with a family history of breast cancer, or a genetic predisposition. [1] While these studies have admitted a risk of cancer due to annual mammograms, the public’s perception is that the risk is small compared with the benefit in saving women’s lives. [2] [3]

We can all agree that mammography is a limited screening tool at best. It is time to engage in an intensive, focused research effort to discover the specific biomarkers that will assess a women’s breast cancer risk and identify those patients most likely to benefit from a specific molecularly-targeted therapy. A non-invasive test that is sensitive and specific for the early detection of breast cancer is a goal worthy of our investment and dedication.

Mammography will remain a controversial issue because it is an imperfect tool involving ionizing radiation. Let’s move beyond this method that is decades old and move forward with an early detection method for breast cancer that will not increase a women’s cancer risk at all. The National Cancer Institute, American Cancer Society and research institutions across the U.S. could join in a collaborative effort to achieve this goal so that our daughters and granddaughters will have a safer, more intelligent approach to breast cancer screening.

For the full article, please click here.

A World Without Cancer – Guest Post

Dr. Margaret Cuomo is the author of “A World Without Cancer: The Making of a New Cure and the Real Promise of Prevention;” she is a board-certified radiologist who served as an attending physician in diagnostic radiology at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y. for many years. She was the keynote speaker at the T.J. Martell Foundation’s inaugural Women of Influence Awards at Riverpark in New York City.

We are honored to share her perspective here on Angelina Jolie’s courageous decision regarding the discovery of her BRCA1 genetic mutation and subsequent bilateral (aka “double”) mastectomy, as well as the implications for the cancer community.

Dr. Margaret Cuomo is the author of “A World Without Cancer: The Making of a New Cure and the Real Promise of Prevention.”

Angelina Jolie has my admiration for her courage in publicly describing her decision to undergo a bilateral (aka “double”) mastectomy. Her BRCA1 genetic mutation significantly increases her risk of developing breast cancer and ovarian cancer.

According to Jolie’s New York Times op-ed piece, her doctors estimated that she has an 87 percent risk of breast cancer and a 50 percent risk of ovarian cancer. Women who have inherited BRCA1 and BRCA2 mutations account for 5 to 10 percent of breast cancers and 10 to 15 percent of ovarian cancers (for white women) in the United States, according to the National Cancer Institute.

Knowing that her own mother died at the age of 56 following her battle with cancer, Angelina Jolie, the mother of six children, decided to be pro-active, and decided to sharply reduce her risk of breast cancer by undergoing the mastectomy.

The question that I hope many women are asking is: “Is this the best that we can do in the 21st century?” After 41 years and more than 90 billion dollars spent since the War on Cancer was declared, we should expect more effective and less invasive solutions to reducing breast cancer, and all cancers.

Are the National Cancer Institute and the pharmaceutical industry committing enough of their intellectual and financial resources to the discovery of safe, new ways of detecting breast cancer and ovarian cancer in their earliest stages?  If a patient has a BRCA1 or BRACA2 mutation, are there techniques available to “turn-off” the faulty genes?

Is there a sense of urgency about finding new tests to detect breast cancer and ovarian cancer, and other cancers, that do not involve radiation – a known carcinogen?

The prevention of cancer should be our ultimate goal and it should have the full benefit of the National Cancer Institute’s and industry’s vast resources.

Our children are our future, and we should expect that their generation will prevent cancer without the traumatic solution that Angelina Jolie felt obliged to accept.

Women of Influence

 

GRAMMY nominated musician Elle Varner (l), honoree Joanne Camuti, Director American Airlines, honoree Lori Stokes, Eyewitness News anchor for WABC, honoree, famed columnist and founder of wowowow.com, Liz Smith, honoree Marcie Allen, President of MAC Presents and Director/Beach 119, honoree Dr. Margaret I. Cuomo, the event’s host and Weekend TODAY personality Jenna Wolfe and Laura Heatherly, CEO of the T.J. Martell Foundation. Photo Credit Nick King NY

This week the T.J. Martell Foundation launched the Women of Influence Awards at Riverpark in New York.  The Foundation honored five incredible women from various business backgrounds: Marcie Allen, President of MAC Presents; Joann Camuti, Director, Sales Promotions and Community Relations, with American Airlines; Dr. Margaret I Cuomo, Author of A World Without Cancer: The Making of a New Cure and the Real Promise of Prevention; Liz Smith, famed Journalist, Columnist and Co-Founder of wowOwow.com; and Lori Stokes, ABC Eyewitness News Anchor.  Jenna Wolfe of NBC’s Today Show was the Mistress of Ceremonies and Grammy-Nominated recording artist Elle Varner performed a special song called “So Fly” for the women in the audience.

The event brought men and women from around the country together to support the honorees, have a great time, but most importantly, to raise awareness and funds for women’s cancer research programs through the great work of Dr. James Holland, Distinguished Professor of Neoplastic Diseases of Mt. Sinai Medical Center, and Dr.Jimmie Holland, Wayne E. Chapman Chair in Psychiatric Oncology of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

Dr. Margaret I. Cuomo who recently published “A World Without Cancer” gave remarks to the audience highlighting key tips for early detection and cancer prevention.  Her address to the audience was heartfelt and made all of us feel strongly about taking better care of ourselves!

I have to say that as I reflect on the wonderful day at the T.J. Martell event, it made me realize that we ALL can be Women and Men of Influence.  We are the best advocates for encouraging our family, friends and colleagues to take better care of themselves by exercising, eating healthier, limiting alcohol intake, getting rest, don’t smoke and getting yearly medical exams.   It is the best medicine one can take to live a longer, healthier life.