In Focus: Curbing Cancer

December 27, 2006 11:00 pm

By Hilary Corrigan

Triplicate staff writer

The American Cancer Society and California's Department of Health Services want to stop cancer — at least the 70 percent of cases that healthier habits or early detection could have prevented.

In a joint annual report, the agencies estimated 135 new cancer cases in Del Norte County for 2006.

Those were expected to include 20 new lung cancer cases, 20 breast cancer cases and 20 prostate cancer cases. The department expected 60 people to die of the disease in 2006.

Expected numbers for 2007 just about mirror those figures. The latest report estimates 135 new cases — 20 from lung, 15 from prostate, 10 from breast, 20 from colon and rectum cancer — and 60 deaths from the disease.

From 2001 to 2003, the county averaged about 58 deaths from cancer — including 20 from lung cancer and one from breast cancer each year.

This year, the two agencies want to highlight activities and habits that can keep many from getting the disease.

That's a goal that makes sense to Dr. Kevin Caldwell, who has practiced in the Crescent City area for more than 20 years.

"Cancer is just part of the overall bigger picture of unhealthy lifestyles," Caldwell said.

Helpful prevention tactics lie in a familiar routine — exercise and a good diet, along with quitting any tobacco and smoking habits.

"It seems to be the same old, boring recipe, over and over," Caldwell said.

Caldwell recommends a diet of fruits, vegetables, chicken, fish and whole grains over processed foods. Small portions at meals and as much exercise as possible also remain vital.

"So much of the illness would be gone," Caldwell said of health problems. "Many, many of the illnesses are self-inflicted."

The 2007 report on cancer in California highlights smoking-caused lung cancer cases. Cigarette smoking causes about 85 percent of the cases and about 14,000 Californians die of the disease each year. One out of three cancer deaths stems from tobacco use.

The report also highlights nutrition and exercise.

About 90,000 cancer deaths across the nation relate to weight, the report states in a section that advocates fresh fruit and vegetables.

The report also recommends that adults get at least 30 minutes of exercise each day.

"Most people, they know what to do, they just don't do it," Caldwell said. "Cut the excuses and just do it."

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Cancer in California

• Cancer rates declined by 10 percent from 1988 to 2003

• The number of cancer cases connected to tobacco — lung, bronchus, stomach, larynx, oral cavity, pancreas and bladder — dropped

• Nearly one out of two Californians born today will develop cancer and one in five will die of it

Source: California Department of Health Services, Cancer Surveillance Section