Listening to my local public radio station this morning, I heard a puzzling announcement that lasted no more than 15 seconds:
“Support comes from Texas Oncology, with a reminder that November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month. A preventative regimen, including a healthy diet and exercise, can help prevent lung cancer.”
Diet and exercise to prevent lung cancer? That’s a stretch and also a missed opportunity.
Texas Oncology should have used their sponsorship message to alert the public about some of the known risk factors for lung cancer. Besides tobacco smoke, they include environmental and occupational contaminants such as radon, particulate matter, asbestos, diesel exhaust, respirable silica, and chromium.
The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends yearly lung cancer screening with a low-dose CT (LDCT) for people age 55 to 80 years old who are (or were) heavy smokers. The Task Force does not currently have a LDCT lung screening recommendation for individuals who had occupational exposure to carcinogens. A new paper published last month in the American Journal of Public Health describes the benefit of LDCT for lung cancer among nuclear weapons workers. Their exposures would have included radiation, asbestos, and beryllium. The screening program identified 80 lung cancers, 47 of which were stage 1 (i.e., particularly treatable.)
Texas Oncology is in the business of treating cancer patients. As a former cancer patient I know the benefit of quality cancer-killing treatment. But I get frustrated during these “[fill in body part] Cancer Awareness months when the messages ignore prevention. In this case, Texas Oncology fumbled its prevention message by failing to mention the pollutants that cause many cases of lung cancer.