Doctors push for genetic testing to put cancer rates into remission

World Today

Sunday marked World Cancer Day. The World Health Organization warns cancer is the second-leading cause of death worldwide, second to heart disease, and is responsible for nearly nine million deaths in low-and-middle-income countries.

But as CGTN’s Karina Huber reports, rates are dropping in the U.S., in part due to new testing options.

Robert Collins was 46-years-old when he found out he had prostate cancer. His family had a history of cancer, but not prostate cancer. And, he had no symptoms.

However, the former police officer was one of the first responders at the World Trade Center after the September 2001 terrorist attacks. Numerous reports have linked dust from Ground Zero to cancer.

“I was pretty shocked,” Collins said. “When you hear that word ‘cancer,’ it is quite deafening.”

His cancer was first discovered by a digital rectal exam, and then confirmed through a biopsy. Three months later he had his entire prostate removed, and with it, the last of the disease.

“I don’t say survivor, I say thriver.”

Every day, 4,700 Americans are diagnosed with cancer. Among men, prostate cancer is most prevalent among men, and among women, its breast cancer. Mortality rates are falling, however. Since 1991, cancer deaths in the U.S. are down 26 percent.

Tobacco consumption is the leading cause of cancer deaths, and with the drop in the number of people smoking, cancer rates have dropped as well.

In the 1950s, roughly 42 percent of U.S. adults smoked. Now, it’s 15 percent.

Rates are also falling because of early detection, linked to better screening methods.

“Early detection is critical, and plays a huge role in how extensive the therapy will be, potentially how much of an impact it will have on that person’s function, and so on,” according to Dr. Eva Chalas of the NYU Winthrop Center for Cancer Care. “Early detection cannot be underestimated in its importance.”

 In the U.S., patients are routinely screened at varying ages for breast, prostate, cervical and colorectal cancers. Some like Chalas, however, would like to see prescreening begin much earlier.

“I personally would like to see every newborn genetically tested. With increased genetic profiling, we will identify individuals who are at increased risk, and perhaps subject them to screening methodologies earlier so that we can sort of run interference in preventing the cancers from developing.”

Leading cancer researchers in the U.K. also want genetic testing to become a part of the standard cancer screening process. Experts would like all women over the age of 30 to be tested for faulty genes like BRCA1 and BRCA2, which can lead to cancer. They predict this would lead to 17,000 fewer cases of ovarian cancer, and 64,000 fewer cases of breast cancers in the U.K.