NY targets smoking, obesity to curb cancer

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ALBANY -- The state's five-year plan for fighting cancer targets smoking, poor nutrition and obesity to limit the disease that is now diagnosed in more than 100,000 New Yorkers annually while killing about 35,000.

Noting the nearly 1 million cancer survivors among the state's 19 million people, the plan also calls for tracking their quality-of-life outcomes and ensuring appropriate follow-up care including ongoing screenings.

"Cancer is the second leading cause of death in New York State," Health Commissioner Dr. Nirav Shah said. In 2010, the disease killed 35,092 people, down about 2,000 in a decade, compared with 44,557 deaths from heart disease, which was down more than 13,000 since 2000, according to state data.

The report from a consortium of providers and organizations, including the state Health Department and the American Cancer Society, lists incremental goals for early detection, treatment, public outreach, workforce training and palliative care for those who are terminally ill.

The chief strategy for better early detection is implementing the 2010 federal law intended to help extend health coverage to 2.7 million uninsured New Yorkers. Starting in 2014, the New York Health Benefit Exchange, a federally required and subsidized marketplace for buyers, is expected to enroll about 1.1 million uninsured.

According to the report: 77 percent of women over 40 have been getting screened for breast cancer in New York; 84 percent of women over 18 were screened for cervical cancer; 70 percent of adults over 50 were screened for colorectal cancer.

Meanwhile, 18 percent of New York adults were smokers, one out of four was obese and only 27 percent consumed five or more fruits or vegetables a day. Nearly four in five failed to meet exercise guidelines while more than one-fourth didn't exercise at all.

"About one-third of cancers can be attributed to tobacco use, while another one-third can be attributed to poor nutrition, physical inactivity and obesity," the report said.

About 13,500 New Yorkers are diagnosed yearly with lung cancer, with about 9,200 deaths and smoking identified as the most common cause of the disease. Research also showed colon, breast, kidney and esophageal cancers associated with obesity, with studies reporting links to gallbladder, ovarian and pancreatic cancers.

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The report noted that virtually all cervical cancers are caused by the human papillomavirus, though in 2011 only 34 percent of females ages 13 to 17 had received all three recommended vaccine doses against the virus.

Concerning environmental factors, the report said unprotected and extended exposure to ultraviolet radiation through sunlight or tanning equipment can lead to skin cancer, which kills about 560 people a year. About 1,800 men and 1,400 women in New York are diagnosed annually with melanoma, the most deadly form.

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