No, Cancer Isn’t Just “Bad Luck”

A paper published recently in the journal Science has generated an enormous amount of media coverage. The paper’s matter-of-fact title, “Variation in Cancer Incidence Among Tissues Can Be Explained By the Number of Stem Cell Divisions,” doesn’t sound like something that would set the internet buzzing, but it sure did.
Cell Division
That’s because of how the paper was promoted and covered: “MOST CANCERS DUE TO BAD LUCK, NOT PREVENTABLE, STUDY FINDS” screamed one headline. But there’s a sharp disconnect between this paper’s findings and the hype surrounding it.

Here at AICR, we fund and analyze the research showing that a healthy weight, a healthy diet and regular physical activity could prevent hundreds of thousands of U.S. cancers every year. We’re concerned that the oversimplified coverage this study received will reinforce the widespread conviction that cancer “just happens” and cause Americans to throw up their hands and ignore the empowering, evidence-based message that everyday choices play an important protective role in risk for many of the most common cancers.

When looking at this paper, ask yourself three basic questions. Continue reading


Getting the Diet “Just Right” – Vitamins, Minerals and the Goldilocks Effect

Joel Mason, MD of Tufts University Medical Center kicked off the opening plenary session of the 2014 AICR Research Conference with a deep dive into one of the most intriguing and – to the public, at least – confusing and even frustrating areas of cancer prevention research.canstockphoto3912708

As scientists learn more about the interplay between diet and cancer risk, it’s clearer than ever that the role of many dietary factors in several cancers is more complex than was once thought.

The entire plenary session of our research conference is focusing on the notion of the “Goldilocks Effect”– the idea that, for several dietary factors, the old idea of “more is better” is flatly wrong. (In scientific circles, this phenomenon is known as the “U-shaped curve,” which describes the graph of dose-response observed as consumption of a given dietary factor increases – from high risk (low consumption) to lower risk (adequate consumption) and back to high risk (high consumption).

Mason spoke on folate as a case in point: Habitually low consumption of folate is associated with higher risk for colorectal and other cancers, as low folate levels increase genomic instability in cells. But in some cases, getting too much folate in the diet has also been linked, in animal models and in some human studies, to increased risk. He stressed, however, that this finding remains controversial, as the evidence for a risk-increasing effect for folate is by no means as consistent as the evidence for its protective role. But until we learn more, he advised that the general population stick to the Institute of Medicine’s recommendation to limit folic acid intake to less than 1000 mcgs/day. Continue reading


AICR Welcomes Oncology Group’s New Position on Obesity

obesity-and-cancerToday, in a bold position paper published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, the American Society of Clinical Oncology alerted its members and the public to the clear and convincing link between obesity and cancer, and outlined a strategy for combating obesity that will help reduce cancer incidence in the years ahead.

“Obesity is a major, under-recognized contributor to the nation’s cancer toll and is quickly overtaking tobacco as the leading preventable cause of cancer,” reads the JCO paper.

We at AICR strongly agree, and officially welcome today’s development as important progress in much-needed prevention efforts that could save millions of American lives in the years ahead.

The reason this JCO position paper is so important is because oncologists stand on the front lines of our national battle against cancer, and are uniquely positioned to counsel patients about weight management.

The paper goes on to outline a series of new ASCO initiatives to:

1) increase education and awareness of the obesity-cancer link;

2) provide tools to help oncologist address obesity with their patients;

3) foster research to better understand how to best help their patients manage their weight, and;

4) advocate for policy to make the kind of societal changes that will make it easier for patients to manage their weight.

AICR is delighted to have ASCO officially weighing in on this vital area, and we are excited to offer any help we can. We’ve established the evidence base that shows that obesity increases the risk for eight different cancers. In the coming months and years, our ongoing analysis will likely find even more. In the meantime, we’ve developed interactive tools, brochures and infographics to raise awareness about the obesity-cancer link, and evidence-based advice for individuals on how to lose weight and lower their risk.

But the statistics are stark, and they challenge before us is great. It will take all of us working together to combat obesity and the chronic diseases that follow on from it. We are grateful to have an old ally officially declare itself and join us in the fight.