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New ACS study says drinking accounts for 3.2% of cancer deaths in the U.S.

A new study finds that alcohol consumption accounts for a considerable portion of cancer incidence and mortality in the U.S. The article, which appears in Cancer Epidemiology, states that in the U.S. on average, alcohol consumption accounts for 4.8% of cancer cases and 3.2% of cancer deaths.

This study led by Farhad Islami, MD, PhD, is the first to estimate contemporary proportions and counts of alcohol-attributable cancer cases and deaths for all 50 states and the District of Columbia.  Nationally, alcohol consumption accounted for an estimated 75,200 cancer cases and 18,950 cancer deaths annually during 2013 to 2016. Data shows the proportions were generally higher in New England and Western states and lower in Midwestern and Southern states.

“This information is important for prioritizing state-level cancer prevention and control efforts to reduce alcohol consumption and help reduce this cancer burden,” Farhad said.

The study finds that overall alcohol-related cancer cases were slightly higher among women than men, reflecting the association of alcohol consumption with increased risk for female breast cancer. The authors say, “healthcare providers and public health practitioners can educate the community to expand the currently limited awareness of the cancer-related risks of alcohol consumption.” 

The ACS guideline for Diet and Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention states that it is best not to consume alcohol; for those who do drink, consumption should be limited to no more than 1 drink per day for women and 2 drinks per day for men.

The study notes that concurrent tobacco use and alcohol consumption appears to increase the risk of cancers of the mouth, pharynx, larynx, and esophagus more than the independent effect of either behavior alone. Research is needed to better understand cancer burden resulting from the combined effect of tobacco use and alcohol consumption. 

Article: Sauer AG, Fedewa SA, Bandi P, Minihan AK, Stoklosa M, Drope J, Gapstur SM, Jemal A, Islami F. Proportion of cancer cases and deaths attributable to alcohol consumption by US state, 2013-2016. Cancer Epidemiology, 2021. doi: 10.1016/j.canep.2021.101893. 


  • Cancer-related suicides down 2.8% per year in the past two decades

    Despite increases in overall suicide rates in the U.S. during the past two decades, cancer-related suicides declined by 2.8% per year, according to a new ACS study.

    The study, appearing in JNCI: The Journal of the National Cancer Institute, found that the largest declines in cancer-related suicide rates were among high-risk populations, suggesting an evolving role of psycho-oncology and palliative and hospice care for cancer patients and survivors during this period.

    To examine the trends in cancer-related suicides compared to overall suicides in the U.S., investigators led by Xuesong Han, PhD (pictured here), calculated average annual percentage change of suicide rates stratified by risk factors including age, sex, urban/rural status, and cancer type. They found that of cancer-related suicides, lung cancer (18.2%), prostate cancer (15.4%), and colorectal cancer (9.1%) were the most common contributing causes. They also found that cancer-related suicide rates had large declines among those who were older, male, living in urban areas, and with prostate or lung cancer.

    Although the gun and opioid epidemics emerged as major public health concerns during this period and overall suicide rates with firearm and drugs increased, the authors found that cancer-related suicide with firearms did not increase, and cancer-related suicides with drugs remained low. These results suggest different risk profiles of suicide for cancer patients compared to the general population.

    “Advances in supportive care and policies ensuring equitable access to increased psychosocial care, and palliative and hospice care services are essential in delivering high quality cancer care to maximize patients and families’ quality of life,” the authors conclude.  


  • Volunteer leader Alice Pomponio named managing director of BrightEdge

    Effective today, life sciences industry leader Alice Pomponio has been named managing director of BrightEdge, our philanthropic impact fund that invests in companies to accelerate our mission to fight cancer. 

    Alice has served as a member of the board of directors of ACS CAN, chair of the ACS Eastern New England Board of Directors, and was a two-time chair of ACS CAN's Boston Research Breakfast.

    BrightEdge is our donor-funded, philanthropic venture capital fund that invests in for-profit companies developing novel solutions to attacking cancer. 

    Alice is a faculty member at Harvard-MIT HST Sloan Healthcare Ventures, teaching biomedical innovation and healthcare entrepreneurship, a role she will retain. She previously was advisor, Red Sky Partners LLC, and managing director of Accendo, which she founded in 2018 to accelerate entrepreneurial consumer-facing approaches to patient access and affordability of quality care.

    An expert in rare disease and precision oncology, she focuses on disruptive technology adoption and companion diagnostic / therapeutic co-development strategies with an eye towards value-based care. At Red Sky Partners, Alice advised high-growth life sciences and health tech companies on go-to-market and product value strategies. 

    Alice held prior strategy and operational leadership roles at Radius Health, AstraZeneca, and Sanofi Genzyme, where she launched multiple U.S. and global specialty products and championed orphan drug and health equity initiatives across the globe. Her public sector experience spans innovation, trade, and healthcare policy through roles in the UK Government and U.S. Office of Management and Budget. 

    She holds a Master of Public Policy from Harvard University and a Bachelor of Science in Biology from MIT.  She serves on the Boards of Massachusetts Biotechnology Council, MassEcon, and PhagePro Inc.

    "Alice’s extensive experience in life sciences and business, coupled with her passion for the American Cancer Society’s lifesaving mission, makes her uniquely positioned for this role," said Kael Reicin, our chief financial officer, to whom she reports.


  • Suits And Sneakers week is January 25-31

    ​Please help promote it on social media.

    The annual Coaches vs. Cancer Suits And Sneakers Week is coming up January 25-31.

    The week unites basketball coaches across the country to raise funds and awareness about the fight against cancer and promotes the American Cancer Society as a source of inspiration and hope for those facing cancer.  

    While coaching games during the week, coaches wear sneakers with their game attire as a visible reminder of their support of ACS. This year, we’re adding an even more visible element to Suits And Sneakers Week for Division I head coaches: Coaches vs. Cancer-branded face masks that head and assistant coaches are encouraged to wear.  

    In addition to Suits And Sneakers Week, we have a Suits And Sneakers fundraising platform that any school (college, high school, and youth league) or volunteer can use to create a customizable fundraising page.

    Teams and individuals who choose to participate in this fundraising side of Suits And Sneakers can fundraise anytime, and are not limited to just Suits And Sneakers Week. This season, our Suits And Sneakers fundraiser will support childhood cancer research, services, and awareness.

    You can follow the action on the national leaderboard at SuitsAndSneakers.org. The top fundraising college and high school teams in the nation will be recognized as Suits And Sneakers National Champions on March 31.

    Volunteers can also use these Suits And Sneakers fundraising pages to support existing ACS events. To find out how, please click here.

    Please help promote this on social media, especially if your hometown team is participating! 

    Be sure to tag @AmericanCancer, @CoachesvsCancer, and use #SuitsAndSneakers. 


  • Common food-borne pathogen linked to brain cancer

    ​T. gondii is a parasite most commonly acquired from undercooked meat.

    A new study by ACS and the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute suggests a link between toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii) infection and the risk of glioma, a type of brain cancer, in adults. 

    The report, appearing Jan. 11, 2021, in the International Journal of Cancer, finds that people who have glioma are more likely to have antibodies to T. gondii (indicating that they have had a previous infection) than a similar group that was cancer free.  

    For the study, investigators led by James Hodge, JD, MPH and Anna Coghill, PhD, examined the association between T. gondii antibodies measured several years before the cancer was diagnosed and the risk of developing a glioma. 

    Study participants were from our Cancer Prevention Study-II (CPS-II) Nutrition Cohort and the Norwegian Cancer Registry’s Janus Serum Bank (Janus). T. gondii is a common parasite that is most commonly acquired from undercooked meat, and may lead to the formation of cysts in the brain. These results suggest that reducing exposure to this common food-borne pathogen could provide a modifiable risk factor for highly aggressive brain tumors in adults.

    Although glioma is a relatively rare disease, it is a highly fatal cancer. Globally in 2018, there were an estimated 300,000 incident cases and 241,000 deaths due to brain and other nervous system cancers. The majority (80%) of malignant brain tumors are gliomas, for which the estimated five-year relative survival rate is a stark 5%.

    The study notes an association between T. gondii antibodies and glioma was similar in two demographically different groups of people: the CPS-II cases were approximately 70 years old at the time of blood draw, while those in the Janus cohort were approximately 40 years old.

    “This does not mean that T. gondii definitely causes glioma in all situations. Some people with glioma have no T. gondii antibodies, and vice versa,” notes Hodge.

    “The findings do suggest that individuals with higher exposure to the T. gondii parasite are more likely to go on to develop glioma,” said Coghill. “However, it should be noted that the absolute risk of being diagnosed with a glioma remains low, and these findings need to be replicated in a larger and more diverse group of individuals.” 

    The authors note that, “if future studies do replicate these findings, ongoing efforts to reduce exposure to this common pathogen would offer the first tangible opportunity for prevention of this highly aggressive brain tumor.”

    Article: Hodge JM, Coghill AE, Kim Y, Bender N, Smith-Warner S, Gapstur S, Teras LR, Grimsrud TK, Waterboer T, Egan KM. Toxoplasma Gondii Infection and the Risk of Adult Glioma in Two Prospective Studies, 2021. International Journal of Cancer 2021; doi: 10.1002/ijc.33443.


  • ​Record drop in cancer mortality for second straight year due to improved lung cancer treatment

    COVID-19 Impact Still Unknown

    Overall cancer death rates in the U.S. dropped continuously from 1991 through 2018 for a total decrease of 31%, including a 2.4% decline from 2017 to 2018. The news comes from Cancer Statistics, 2021, our annual report on cancer rates and trends. It is the most widely referenced source of cancer rates and trends in the U.S.

    The article appears today in our flagship journal, CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, and is accompanied by a consumer version, Cancer Facts & Figures 2021. This year, we are celebrating the 70th anniversary of Cancer Facts & Figures. Over the last 70 years, this resource has provided the latest information about cancer incidence, mortality, and other trends to the public, medical community, and media – a tradition we are incredibly proud of. 

    The report estimates that in the U.S. in 2021, almost 1.9 million (1,898,160) new cancer cases will be diagnosed and 608,570 Americans will die from cancer. These projections are based on currently available incidence and mortality data through 2017 and 2018, respectively, and thus do not account for the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on cancer diagnoses or deaths. 

    “The impact of COVID-19 on cancer diagnoses and outcomes at the population level will be unknown for several years because of the time necessary for data collection, compilation, quality control, and dissemination,” said Rebecca Siegel, MPH, lead author of the report. “We anticipate that disruptions in access to cancer care in 2020 will lead to downstream increases in advanced stage diagnoses that may impede progress in reducing cancer mortality rates in the years to come.”

    Progress in reducing mortality has slowed for other leading causes of death in the U.S., but accelerated for cancer, which is the second-leading cause. An estimated 3.2 million cancer deaths have been averted from 1991 through 2018 due to reductions in smoking, earlier detection, and improvements in treatment, which are reflected in long-term declines in mortality for the four leading cancers: lung, breast, colorectal, and prostate. 

    Lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer death, accounting for more deaths than breast, prostate, and colorectal cancers combined. Sluggish progress against these latter cancers in recent years contrasts with accelerating reductions in the death rate for lung cancer, from 2.4% annually during 2009 to 2013 to 5% annually during 2014 to 2018. As a result, lung cancer accounted for almost half (46%) of the overall decline in cancer mortality in the past 5 years and spurred a record single-year drop (2.4% from 2017 to 2018) for the second year in a row. 

    Recent rapid reductions in lung cancer mortality reflect better treatment for the most common subtype – non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Two-year relative survival for NSCLC has increased from 34% for patients diagnosed during 2009 through 2010 to 42% for those diagnosed during 2015 through 2016, including absolute gains of 5% to 6% for every stage of diagnosis. Two-year survival for small cell lung cancer remained at 14% to 15% during this time period. 

    Cervical cancer is almost 100% preventable through screening and, in recent years, the HPV vaccine, but continues to cause thousands of deaths in the U.S. annually. In 2018, 11 women died cervical cancer deaths per day in 2018, half of which were women in their 50s or younger. It is the second-leading cause of cancer death among women in their 20s and 30s.”

    The HPV vaccine holds promise to nearly eliminate cervical cancer with complete population coverage, yet U.S. vaccination rates remain low compared to other high-income countries: 57% of U.S. adolescent females are up-to-date vs >80% in Australia and >90% in the U.K. Per ACS guidelines HPV vaccinations are recommended in children starting between the ages of 9 to 12, and cervical cancer testing (screening) in young women should begin at age 25.

    Other highlights from Cancer Statistics 2021/Cancer Facts & Figures 2021 include:

    • Cancer is the leading cause of death in Hispanic, Asian American, and Alaska Native persons. 
    • The 5-year survival rate for all cancers combined diagnosed during 2010 through 2016 was 67% overall, 68% in white patients, and 63% in Black patients.
    • For all stages combined, survival is the highest for prostate cancer (98%), melanoma of the skin (93%), and female breast cancer (90%), and lowest for cancers of the pancreas (10%), liver (20%), esophagus (20%), and lung (21%). 
    • Survival rates are lower for Black patients than for white patients for every cancer type except pancreas and kidney, for which they are the same.
    • Prostate, lung and bronchus, and colorectal cancers account for 46% of all incident cases in men, with prostate cancer alone accounting for 26% of diagnoses.
    • For women, breast, lung, and colorectal cancers account for 50% of all new diagnoses, with breast cancer alone accounting for 30% of female cancers. 
    • In contrast to declining trends for lung and colorectal cancers, female breast cancer incidence rates increased by about 0.5% per year from 2008 to 2017, which is attributed, at least in part, to continued declines in the fertility rate and increased body weight.
    • Colorectal cancer overtook leukemia in 2018 as the second leading cause of cancer death in men aged 20 to 39 years, reflecting increasing trends in colorectal cancer in this age group, coinciding with declining rates for leukemia.
    • The Black-white disparity in overall cancer mortality among men and women combined has declined from a peak of 33% in 1993 (279 vs 211 per 100,000, respectively) to 13% in 2018 (174 vs 154).
    • Geographic disparities are widest for the most preventable cancers, such as lung and cervical cancers, for which incidence and mortality rates vary up to 5- and 3-fold, respectively, across states.

    “While recent advances in treatment for lung cancer and several other cancers are reason to celebrate, it is concerning to see the persistent racial, socioeconomic, and geographic disparities for highly preventable cancers,” said Bill Cance, MD, our chief medical and scientific officer. “There is a continued need for increased investment in equitable cancer control interventions and clinical research to create more advanced treatment options to help accelerate progress in the fight against cancer.” 

    Note: Estimates should not be compared year-to year. They are based on computer models of cancer trends and population and may vary considerably. Cancer trends should be based on age-adjusted cancer incidence and death rates (expressed as the number of cancer deaths per 100,000 people). 


  • Join us on Feb. 4 for our national Relay For Life kickoff!

    Although Relay For Life may look different across the country this year, our passion and commitment remain the same. We’re continuing to keep our Relay community connected virtually and making it easy for anyone, anywhere, to help fight cancer. 

    On Thursday, Feb. 4, World Cancer Day, our Relay 2021 Kickoff will bring together our nationwide community for an exciting virtual event. The fun will begin at 8 p.m. ET. RSVP here.

    To learn more and to register a team for 2021, visit relayforlife.org

    Thank you to everyone who took a #RelayFirstLap on Jan. 9. 

    National Relay Weekend
    And, it all comes together mid-May during National Relay Weekend, when we’ll honor survivors, celebrate caregivers, and walk for a cancer-free future. Thanks for your support!

  • 2019 Annual Report available electronically

    The American Cancer Society’s 2019 Annual Report is available electronically on cancer.org. This redesigned, simplified version was created based on feedback from users throughout the organization.

    The American Cancer Society 2019 Annual Report outlines our path forward as we work to eliminate cancer as a major health problem. In the report, we showcase our accomplishments, and we detail revenue and spending for the calendar year 2019. The full 2019 Financial Statements are also available on cancer.org. 

    Through this report, the American Cancer Society recognizes the countless contributions of communities, our volunteers, and partners who help us lead the fight against cancer. As a reminder, this is only a snapshot of all the amazing work that our volunteers and staff are accomplishing throughout the organization. 

    Please note all data in this report is from prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

    For the latest data available, please review the American Cancer Society Vital Statistics resource. 

  • President signs The Henrietta Lacks Enhancing Cancer Research Act

    President Trump on Jan. 5 signed into law legislation aimed at improving access to clinical trials for communities of color and decreasing health disparities. 

    The Henrietta Lacks Enhancing Cancer Research Act works to increase access and remove barriers to participation in federally sponsored cancer clinical trials among communities that are traditionally underrepresented. It directs the federal government to study policies that impact diverse participation in federally sponsored cancer clinical trials nationwide and recommend potential policy changes that would reduce barriers and make it easier for patients from diverse backgrounds to enroll in clinical trials.

    The legislation is named after Henrietta Lacks, a Black woman from Maryland who died from cervical cancer in 1951, and whose cells were taken without her knowledge or consent during her treatment at Johns Hopkins Hospital. They have been used to develop some of modern medicine’s most important breakthroughs, including the development of the polio vaccine and treatments for cancer, HIV/AIDS, and Parkinson’s disease. 

    Lacks’ grandson, Alfred Lacks Carter, shared a guest blog on his grandmother’s legacy on ACS CAN’s Cancer CANdor blog on fightcancer.org

    Advancing the legislation was one of the legislative asks during the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network’s (ACS CAN) National Leadership Summit and Lobby Day in September and an important part of ACS CAN’s work to reduce health disparities and ensure that everyone has a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat and survive cancer. 

    In a press statement, ACS CAN President Lisa A. Lacasse said, “ACS CAN is honored to have had the chance to work with Congress and the Lacks Family on this bill . . . We cannot achieve our mission of a world with less cancer until we reduce the burden of this disease across all communities.”

    For more information about ACS CAN’s advocacy work to reduce health disparities and create health equity, visit www.fightcancer.org/healthdisparities.


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