AICR Conference: What Health Professionals Gain for Cancer Prevention & Survivorship

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For health professionals, the AICR Research Conference is the place to receive the latest evidence-based updates on reducing cancer risk and patient wellness. This is crucial for patient discussions at a time when celebrities and best sellers promote dietary extremes, and headlines present lab studies without the context of overall studies.

Part of what this conference provides are deep dives into research within specialized “silos” of cancer prevention and survivorship. Speakers include researchers whose work ranges from cells to large human populations and small clinical groups. Vitally important, it brings them together to interact with professionals whose life work involves sharing essential messages and evaluating how messages can most effectively support healthy lifestyle choices.

Health professionals who want to talk wellness need to feel equipped to talk about cancer prevention and address concerns of the estimated 16.9 million cancer survivors in the U.S. As a health professional, here’s what I’ve come to expect after decades attending the AICR Research Conference.

Researchers and health professionals are a “village”, each playing a role in support of the goals we all seek of reducing cancer incidence and improving cancer survivorship. The AICR Research Conference provides a home base for the village to gather.


Understanding Research Progress Step-by-Step
From magazine headlines at the grocery store checkout to click-bait social media posts, stories “sell” by promising a solid and explosively new answer from a food, nutrient or highly specific list of allowed and forbidden foods. People see the contradictions from one “sure thing” to another, and want their health professionals to provide a trustworthy bottom line that makes sense for them as individuals. Research has made amazing strides in understanding how cancer development and progression is influenced by a host of factors. However, in my experience, those researchers are among the most humble in seeing not only what’s been learned, but also where we still have gaps in our understanding.

I value the opportunity the AICR Research Conference provides to learn about advances made. It helps me address people’s questions about best-seller claims, which typically represent overly simplified explanations of research that is either outdated or highly preliminary. Combining what I learn about current research findings with my professional knowledge base allows me to provide realistic eating and lifestyle tips that are most likely to make a difference for people.

Some of the presentations I’m particularly excited about hearing at the 2019 conference include:

• How inflammation and the immune system relate to lifestyle choices that affect cancer risk,

• Metabolic influences on cancer (including obesity-like abnormalities that can occur in people with normal weight), and

• Gut microbiome’s potential roles in cancer prevention, immunotherapy treatment and toxicity of chemotherapy.


The Big Picture of Risk and Survivorship

As a health professional, my advice needs to take into account the big picture of how individual pieces of the diet, nutrition, weight management, physical activity, and cancer risk puzzle fit together.

I’m especially looking forward to sessions on:

• Going beyond BMI (body mass index, the way body fatness is often categorized in studies) to new ways of looking at body composition,

• Cancer survivors, such as reducing recurrence, using physical activity to optimize effectiveness and counter adverse effects of treatment, and addressing changes in metabolism and body composition, and

• Learnings from intervention trials, which I expect to improve my ability to interpret the studies I read.


Translating Research to Lifestyle Choices
To make a difference in reducing cancer incidence and improving survivorship, we have to take all these learnings and help our clients put them in practice in their everyday life. Our work includes people from all walks of life who have full agendas and a wide range of concerns. We encourage clients to set priorities on lifestyle choices that will make the most difference for them and then support their efforts to implement those choices. For patients, and for health professionals, it can feel like walking into the wind in today’s world of all-or-nothing quick fixes.

Sessions I’m thrilled to see include:

• What the latest research shows about the adoption of cancer prevention recommendations and cancer risk and outcomes,

• Considering electronic tools – from websites to apps and wearable devices – to support lifestyle change, and

• How cancer prevention recommendations fit in the context of recommendations for other chronic disease and of eating and lifestyle choices people make every day.

Interaction as Specialists Leave Their Silos
Clinical and research conferences often involve thousands of attendees who hear excellent presentations from renowned experts, but there’s little chance to engage in discussions with people outside of your own acquaintances. One of the elements of the AICR Research Conference that I especially value is the opportunity to connect with researchers whose work I read or regularly see quoted and converse with them over meals and at receptions and poster sessions.

I’m thrilled to be among those presenting at this year’s AICR Research Conference. I’ll be walking through the AICR cancer prevention recommendations, sharing insights about the “real life” options and questions people face as they put them in practice. I hope that this will provide a practical take-home for health professionals attending the conference. And I hope that for researchers, realizing the choices involved in a healthy lifestyle may help them plan studies and interpret their results.

Researchers and health professionals are a “village”, each playing a role in support of the goals we all seek of reducing cancer incidence and improving cancer survivorship. The AICR Research Conference provides a home base for the village to gather.

Karen Collins

Author: Karen Collins

Karen Collins, MS, RDN, CDN, is AICR’s Nutrition Advisor. Karen is a speaker, writer and consultant who specializes in helping people make sense of nutrition news. You can follow her blog, Smart Bytes®, through her website and follow her on Twitter @KarenCollinsRD and Facebook @KarenCollinsNutrition.

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