Speaker: Most cancer preventable

Wade McIntyre
Rotary Club of Gonzales guest speaker Renea Austin Duffin, director of the Mary Bird Perkins CARE Network, was guest speaker of the Rotary Club of Gonzales meeting Sept. 23, where she said Louisiana ranks second in the nation in cancer death rates. She was greeted by Club President Mark LaCour, left, and Rotarian Jon Hirsch.

Most cancer, 65 percent of cases in the United States, is preventable through lifestyle changes, according to the Director of the Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center CARE Network.

Speaking at a Rotary Club of Gonzales meeting Tuesday, Renea Austin Duffin said unhealthy diets result in 35 percent of cancer cases, while tobacco use causes 30 percent.

“These are controllable causes, things we have control over,” Duffin said.

Louisianans suffer from 23,000 new cases of cancer each year, or 64 cases per day.

While the state ranks 23rd in a state by state ranking of instances of cancer, Louisiana is No. 2 in cancer death rates.

“That is the very startling reality we live with,” she said.

Duffin blamed Louisiana’s death rate on the state’s 24 percent uninsured rate, failure of some people to use insurance when insured, limited educational awareness about cancer prevention and treatment, and low use of prevention services.

Dips, chewing tobacco, pipes and cigars all cause cancer, she said. Some types of cancer, such as head and neck cases, are caused by a combination of smoking and heavy drinking.

White females are the demographic group with the highest smoking rates because they use smoking for weight control, according to Duffin.

In Louisiana 17 percent of middle school kids and 36 percent of high school students smoke, she said.

Lung cancer death rates are higher in Louisiana because “we start smoking younger and we smoke longer,” she said.

Ascension Parish has higher smoking and colon cancer death rankings than the Louisiana average, said Duffin. Diets high in fried foods and red and processed meats are linked to colon cancer.

To avoid melanoma or skin cancer, Duffin advised daily use of sun screens, restricting exposure to direct sunlight during peak hours of the day, and “avoiding tanning beds like they are the plague.”

Good news about cancer comes with recent survival rates, she said. Five-year survival rates are up to 66 percent, from just 50 percent in a 1975-77 study.