You’ve probably heard about MD Anderson’s Moon Shots Program™. But what is it?
We asked Ernest Hawk, M.D., co-director of the Cancer Prevention and Control Platform and co-leader of the Colorectal Cancer Moon Shot™, to tell us about the program and how prevention plays a role.
Here’s what he told us.
What is MD Anderson’s Moon Shots Program?
Our Moon Shots Program is about accelerating the translation of clinical and basic science discoveries into medical practice. This helps us improve patient care and outcomes, from improved delivery of prevention and screening tests, to more tailored treatments and cancer survivorship services.
We also want to improve community health. We’re working on influencing positive changes in public policy, education and delivery of community-based health care.
How is MD Anderson’s Moon Shots Program different from the National Cancer Moonshot?
MD Anderson launched our Moon Shots Program in Sept. 2012. The National Cancer Moonshot, which was announced in Jan. 2016, has a similar goal: to dramatically accelerate efforts to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer. However, the national effort is pursuing this goal by building and enhancing a national infrastructure and clinical and research networks to drive research and improve cancer care, as well as patient outcomes.
What are the benefits of working to prevent cancer?
Prevention offers the most cost-effective, long-term strategy to address the cancer burden. We know that at least 30-50% of all cancer deaths in the U.S. can be avoided through lifestyle changes that individuals and communities can make today. These include maintaining a balanced diet, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding tobacco, practicing sun safety, getting the HPV vaccine as well as regular cancer screening exams.
While treatment will always be needed, prevention saves the physical, emotional and even financial pain that so often accompanies a cancer diagnosis.
What are some of the things the Moon Shots Program is doing to help prevent cancer?
We’re working on policy, education, and community-based clinical services – and at all levels – institutional, community, state and national – to address cancer risk factors that are based on lifestyle choices.
Here are a few examples:
- Tobacco-free at UT: We’ve led efforts to establish or strengthen tobacco-free policies at all University of Texas campuses. In 2017, UT System will be able to announce that all 14 of its academic and health science centers will have implemented tobacco-free polices. In addition, we’re advancing prevention education and tobacco cessation services for students, patients and employees across the UT campuses.
- Keeping our kids healthy: At the state level, we have worked closely with the CATCH Global Foundation to expand and implement its evidence-based obesity prevention program in schools throughout Texas, reaching thousands of elementary school children. We’ve also developed and disseminated new content to promote sun safety as part of the CATCH program.
- Helping Texas fight skin cancer: Leaders from our Cancer Prevention and Control Platform and the Melanoma Moon Shot served as resource witnesses for legislation banning the use of tanning beds to protect minors from skin cancer. When this legislation was ultimately passed, Texas became the fifth state in the nation to pass such a ban.
What can people do to reduce their risk of cancer?
Here are some key things you can do to lower your chances of developing cancer:
- Know your family history, discuss it with your doctor and share it with family members
- Eliminate tobacco use and limit alcohol consumption
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Maintain a healthy diet
- Be physically active
- Reduce exposure to the sun and avoid tanning beds
- Get regular cancer screening exams
- Use proven preventive medicines and vaccines, including the HPV vaccine
Taking these actions will not only reduce your risk of cancer, but also reduce your risk for many other chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes, and promote better health.
Anything else you want patients to know?
Approximately 30-50% of cancer deaths are preventable through healthy lifestyles and early detection. Take action today. Share prevention tips with your friends and family.
Learn more about MD Anderson’s Moon Shots Program and its prevention efforts at the myCancerConnection Cancer Survivorship Conference on Friday, Nov. 11 and Saturday, Nov. 12.