The goals of Louisiana’s Comprehensive Cancer Control Plan for 2010-2015 include reducing the mortality rates of four of the most common types of cancer – lung, breast, cervical, and colorectal – by double digits.
The plan’s goals also include slashing the incidence of lung and colorectal cancer by 14 percent and 17 percent, as well as reducing the disparities between minorities and the rest of the state when it comes to cancer incidence and mortality rates.
Donna Williams, DrPH and director of the cancer control program, said physicians will continue to be crucial to prevention and early detection of cancer.
“Whether it is screening or working with patients on obesity or smoking cessation, it is the physicians that are so key to all of this,” Williams said.
The Louisiana Cancer Control Partnership, a coalition of state and community organizations, plans to work more with physicians, she said.
“We know physicians’ time is so precious, and there are so many demands on them,” Williams said. “But we want to work with them to make their jobs easier to assist their patients in these healthy lifestyles that are going to reduce the incidence and mortality from cancer.”
The American Cancer Society estimated that 8,480 Louisiana residents died from cancer in 2010. Louisiana had the fourth-highest rate of cancer deaths in the country, according to figures in the cancer control plan, trailing only Kentucky, Mississippi and West Virginia.
One-third of all cancers can be prevented, according to the World Health Organization. Prevention is the most cost-effective, long-term strategy for controlling cancer.
The cancer control plan focuses on six types of cancer that can be prevented in large part or detected in the early stages, when treatment is more effective. Those cancers are lung, breast, cervical, colorectal, prostate, and melanoma.
The plan’s goals include cutting the mortality rates for lung cancer from 68.3 per 100,000 to 61.5 by 2015; breast cancer from 28.9 per 100,000 to 25.7; cervical cancer from 3.1 per 100,000 to 2.8; colorectal from 21.7 per 100,000 to 19; prostate cancer from 30.4 per 100,000 to 29; and melanoma from 2.2 per 100,000 to 2.
Williams said secondary prevention, or early screening and detection activities, were a principal part of the first plan, and those efforts will grow and expand.
The cancer control plan has made some inroads at reducing mortality rates for breast cancer, for example, Williams said. And the partnership will keep pushing on those fronts.
But the primary risk factors for so many cancers are tobacco use, poor nutrition and a lack of physical activity, Williams said, so the control plan emphasizes primary prevention.
“Primary prevention is the way things need to go,” Williams said. “Primary prevention risk factors, such as nutrition and physical activity, really cross a whole variety of chronic diseases.”
Obesity, tobacco use and exposure, poor nutrition, and a lack of physical activity contribute to the entire spectrum of chronic diseases, as well, Williams said.
“It’s only going to be through all of us working together that we’re going to be able to make a dent in these cross-cutting risk factors,” Williams said.
Some 22.6 percent of Louisiana adults smoke and 30.7 percent are obese.
The plan’s goals include preventing young people from smoking and using tobacco.
By 12th grade, more than 43 percent of Louisiana’s public school students will have tried a cigarette. The plan hopes to reduce that percentage to 40.3 percent by 2014.
Studies have shown that increasing the tax on tobacco also reduces the number of smokers. Although the state’s budget problems appeared to provide an opportunity to raise tobacco taxes, neither the governor nor state Legislature supported the idea.
There are a lot of politics in tax issues right now, Williams said. But the cancer control partnership hopes to change people’s minds about the issue by the next fiscal session.
In the meantime, Williams said there are a number of other approaches that can be taken, including primary cessation.
The cancer control program has a large state program to stop smoking, and the partnership’s members will continue working on and building up that program, Williams said. The partnership can continue to work on the states clean indoor air act and bolster that legislation.
“We will look at smoke-free campuses and other smoke-free environments, and we will continue to work on the tobacco tax,” Williams said. “It’s a process. We’re not discouraged by this session. We will be back in two years and continue to work on that as well.”
The 2010-2015 plan is the state’s second comprehensive cancer control plan. The first plan’s achievements included passing and implementing a statewide colorectal cancer screening program and the Clean Indoor Air Act, which prohibited smoking in most public places; creating the Louisiana Physicians’ Council on Cancer; and sharp reductions in prostate and melanoma cancer rates.