Since 1995, the American Public Health Association has designated the first full week of April as National Public Health Week, a time to appreciate the issues that impact our overall well-being as a nation.
This year’s theme is “Public Health is ROI: Save Lives, Save Money,” and AICR applauds its focus on prevention as a key strategy to make diseases like cancer more rare, and less costly — whether those costs are measured in dollars or in human lives.
The National Institutes of Health has crunched the numbers, based on 2008 data. How much does cancer cost the nation financially each year?
Total cost: $201.5 billion
Direct medical costs (total of all health expenditures): $77.4 billion
Indirect mortality costs (cost of lost productivity due to premature death): $124 billion
This is the final Friday of National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month.
If you forget everything else we’ve talked about this month regarding colorectal cancer, please remember this one number:
As in, 50 percent. As in, take the number of colorectal cancers that occur in the United States each year — about 143,500 — and cut it in half.
That’s how many cases we could prevent, just by making healthier everyday choices.
- Move more, every day, in every way.
- Eat more fiber-rich foods like vegetables, whole grains, fruits and beans — and make less room for red meat.
- While you’re at it, skip cold cuts, bacon, sausage, hot dogs and other processed meats.
- The more you follow this advice, the easier it’ll be for you to lose the excess body fat that, we now know, makes colorectal cancer more likely.
Fifty percent. One in two.
That’s nearly 72,000 lives that could be spared this debilitating and too-frequently deadly cancer.
All of us at AICR dearly hope you follow the National Cancer Institute’s advice on screening for colorectal cancer. Catching the disease in its early stages can and does save lives.
But we also hope you emerge from National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month with a new awareness that preventing this disease takes place outside of your doctor’s office. It happens every day, hundreds of times, with every small, unremarkable but vitally important choice you make about what to eat and how to live.
As we enter the second week of a month devoted to Colorectal Cancer Awareness, let’s focus on one crucial aspect of prevention about which far too many Americans remain unaware:
Namely, that moving more matters hugely. The evidence is clear: Being physically active is powerfully protective against colorectal cancer.
Unfortunately for the increasingly sedentary American populace, the inverse is also true: Being inactive — as most of us are — makes colorectal cancer more likely.
That urgent message is not being heard, according to the AICR 2013 Cancer Risk Awareness Survey [PDF]. In fact, awareness that the lack of physical activity is a cause of cancer plummeted from a high of 45 percent in 2009 to 36 percent in 2013, the steepest decline in the history of the survey. Continue reading