Playing the Odds: What We Mean by “Prevention”

Cancer prevention: It’s what AICR is all about. We fund research, analyze data and produce recommendations, all with the same goal in mind — saving lives.

We want to reduce the burden tbigstock-Magnifying-Glass-Person-Search-5197835hat cancer places on the population, both in lives lost, as well as in the billions of dollars now spent on cancer care. We want to make cancer much, much more rare.

When researchers and policy makers talk about “cancer prevention,” that’s what they mean. They’re looking at the issue from the population level, with the goal of reducing the number of cases of cancer that occur within a given group.

When we at AICR talk to the research community or policy makers, “prevention” is the word we use, as its nuanced technical meaning is generally understood.

But when we talk to individuals – when we translate the science into practical, easy-to-understand information that people can use in their daily lives, we have to be careful. Continue reading

Scientific Search for “The Best Diet” Distracts From The Real Issue

A provocative editorial in the latest issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association has many of us in the health field buzzing today.

The essay, “A Call for the End to the Diet Debates” by Drs. Sherry Pagoto and Bradley Appelhans, argues that it’s time for the research and medical community to accept that when it comes to weight loss, there is no one diet that is best for everyone. They point to study after study in which scientist have pit, for example, the Atkins diet against the Mediterranean diet against low-fat diets, has not led to any clear answer for weight loss alone.

The real measure researchers should be looking at, they say, is not how many pounds individual subjects of these studies lost, but how able they were to stick to the diet in question. Or, in scientific terms, “adherence.” Continue reading

Is Obesity a Disease? American Medical Association (AMA) thinks so.

Earlier this week, at their annual meeting, they announced they were officially recognizing obesity as a disease. It’s a move that will have far-reaching effects on the American healthcare system, in that it will raise awareness and spur action on the part of physicians, who are historically reluctant to discuss weight with their patients. It may also encourage more insurers to cover obesity treatment and, hopefully, prevention efforts.

Much of the attention surrounding this new classification has focused on semantic issues (what is a disease, anyway, and how does it differ from a condition or disorder?) and on the fact that the most widely-used measure of obesity, the Body Mass Index or BMI, is an imperfect one. Continue reading