There was good and bad news this year in the area of cancer prevention. We talked to our experts about what all this means for you.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in August that more parents are choosing to vaccinate their children against the HPV virus. Increased vaccination rates for boys drove the number up. The vaccination rate for girls has remained steady.
The study found 60% of teens age 13 to 17 got at least one dose of the two-dose HPV vaccine in 2016. That’s a 4% increase over the previous year. Unfortunately, many children do not get the second dose of the two-dose regimen. Only 43% of young teens are fully protected against the cancers caused by HPV, according to the report.
All girls and boys between age 11 and 12 should get the two-dose HPV vaccine. The second dose should be given 6-12 months after the first dose. The vaccine is recommended at this age so boys and girls have time to develop the best immune response. The HPV vaccine prevents several types of cancer in men and women, including anal, cervical, throat and penile cancers. The vaccine also prevents genital warts.
Why it’s important: “The HPV vaccine is a safe and effective way to prevent cancer,” says Therese Bevers, M.D., medical director of the Lyda Hill Cancer Prevention Center at MD Anderson. “While it’s great that more boys are getting vaccinated, this study tells us we have work to do in the area of getting more girls vaccinated and making sure parents get their kids both doses.”
MD Anderson publishes prostate cancer screening guidelines
Advice on prostate screening can be confusing. MD Anderson has developed a prostate screening algorithm that can help men and their physicians work together to decide whether screening is the right decision.
Beginning at age 45, men should start speaking with their health care provider about the benefits and risks of prostate screening. If they choose prostate cancer screening, they should begin with a baseline PSA test and strongly consider a baseline digital rectal exam.
Why it’s important: Detecting cancer early provides the best chance for treating it successfully. However, because prostate cancer is slow-growing and screening tests can provide false-positives, the risk of over-treating the disease is a concern.
“Treatment for prostate cancer can have a negative impact on a patient’s quality of life,” Bevers says. “We encourage patients to have a conversation with their doctor about the risks and benefits of screening and treatment, so they can make the most informed decision.”
Colorectal cancer deaths on the rise in younger adults
The American Cancer Society released a study in August showing that colorectal cancer deaths have risen steadily since 2001 in those age 20-54. Colorectal cancer deaths in the rest of the population have decreased. According to the study, if you were born in 1990, your risk of colon cancer is double and rectal cancer is quadruple that of someone born in 1950.
The reason for the increase is not known, but may be because younger adults may ignore or dismiss symptoms because they don’t think they are a candidate for the disease.
Why it’s important: What does this mean for someone who is under 50, the age when men and women should get their first screening colonoscopy? The research underscores the importance of watching out for symptoms of colorectal cancer and taking steps to reduce your risk, no matter your age, says Eduardo Vilar-Sanchez, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of Clinical Cancer Prevention at MD Anderson.