3 Recent Cancer Prevention and Treatment Breakthroughs

When it comes to cancer prevention and treatment, scientists are publishing new information every week. Discover some of the biggest steps forward in research.

While there is no cancer vaccine or cure just yet, big strides are being made in identifying new cancer prevention and treatment strategies. Learn more about these new developments, and what they mean for your health: 

Different Patients, Different Cells, Different Treatment 

Just like no two cancer patients are alike, no two cancers (even of the same type) are exactly alike. This is also true of cells within each tumor. When the cancer cells divide, they also mutate, or change. This can make treatment difficult, as the different cell mutations mean one cell may respond to treatment, while another does not.

Recent research from the Cancer Institute at University College London found that cells within a tumor have a common mutation. Once this common mutation is isolated within a specific person, treatments can be targeted to attack only that mutation. The lead researcher compared it to cutting off a tree at the trunk, rather than just trying to trim the branches. 

Although human trials are a long way off, this new knowledge could make a big difference in the effectiveness of our cancer treatment drugs. 

The Best Cancer Vaccine? Exercise

The fact that physical activity can prevent cancer is old news. However, a recent study published in JAMA Internal Medicine pooled data from more than 1.4 million patients and a dozen studies from the United States and Europe. Because the data set was so large, we now have in-depth information about how exercise affects many kinds of cancers: 

  • The most active individuals had a lower risk of cancer in the colon, breast, endometrium, esophagus, liver, stomach, and kidney. Exercise also significantly reduced the risk of myeloma and cancers of the head, neck, rectum, and bladder.
  • Exercise reduced the risk of lung cancer for current and former smokers. 
  • Those who were most active in the study only did moderate exercise equivalent to about 2.5 hours a week of jogging. 
  • The least active exercised the equivalent of 20 minutes per week of brisk walking. 
  • People with lower activity levels than the most active group still had notably lower cancer risk than those of the least active group. 

Most adults need at least two hours and thirty minutes of physical activity per week. If it sounds daunting, remember this is only about thirty minutes per day—try walking briskly in 15-minute periods to start, then slowly increasing your time.

The Longer the Weight, The Higher the Risk

Obesity (a body mass index higher than 30) is associated with many health problems, including cancer. A new study published in PLoS Medicine found that the longer an adult is overweight, the higher his or her risk for several forms of cancer. 

For every 10 years of being overweight as an adult, the risk for all cancers rose 7%. The risk for endometrial cancer rises 17%, and 16% for kidney cancer. The risk was increased 5% for postmenopausal breast cancer. 

If you are overweight, talk with your primary care physician about the best ways to manage your health risks. The faster you take action, the more your body will thank you.