raloxifene, for example, target
women with a high risk of breast
cancer. Medicated mouthwashes
also are being tested as a way to re-
duce the risk of oral cancer.
The mapping of the human
genome, completed in 2003, has
opened the door to personalized
treatments for cancer, in which
the molecular makeup of both the
patient and the cancer dictate a
specific approach. This has led,
for instance, to the discovery that
a mutated BRCA gene indicates a
high likelihood of developing breast
cancer—and that women with the
mutated gene will respond best to a
specific treatment protocol.
RECOMMENDATION EXCEPTIONS SCREENING TEST
In the coming decade, stem cell
research may yield new clues in
diagnosis and treatment. And nanotechnology may assist with early
diagnosis and more targeted delivery of drugs to cancerous cells.
For now, doctors are focusing
heavily on cancer prevention.
Americans have largely heeded
the warning about tobacco use,
and deaths from lung cancer have
already begun to decline. But the
American Institute for Cancer
Research, which funds research
into the link between a healthy
lifestyle and cancer prevention, estimates that a full third of the most
common cancers could be prevented by eating a diet rich in fruits and
vegetables—plant-based foods are
loaded with fiber, antioxidants, and
other cancer-fighting nutrients;
studies show a link between physical activity and the reduced risk of
several cancers; and maintaining a
healthy weight—supersizing seems
to go hand-in-hand with cancer,
though scientists aren’t sure why.
“The lag period might be 20 to 30
years,” says Meisenberg, “but behind America’s obesity wave
we are sure to see a cancer wave.”
RECOMMENDATION WH Y I T CHANGED
Regular screenings are also important. The ability to
identify precancerous lesions in very early stages is giving
hope to the belief that proper screening will eventually
render many cancers preventable. Specific tests exist for
colon, breast, cervical, prostate, and uterine cancers.
Indeed, between the new drugs, the improved tech-
Getting tested for certain types of cancer may seem like an open-and-shut case.
If doctors find something, you’ve caught it early. If not, that’s great. But some tests
carry risks, and false positives can lead to unnecessary biopsies and surgeries. The
recommendations for three cancer screenings have recently been revised. Talk to
your doctor to see if the benefits outweigh the risks. —Holly St. Lifer
As determined by
As determined by
Women 40 to 70 were
advised to get a mam-
mogram every one to
In October 2011,
the U.S. Preventive
Services Task Force
in healthy men.
The American Cancer So-
ciety advised in October
2011 that those 55 to
74 with a pack-a-day
smoking history consider
an annual spiral CT scan.
The U. S. Preventive Ser-
vices Task Force recom-
mended in December
2009 that women ages
50 to 74 get a mammo-
gram every two years.
Studies show 95 per-
cent of men do not
die of the disease
within 12 years. Risks
of treatment include
impotence and in-
A study showed those
who were screened
with CT scans had a
20 percent lower chance
of dying than those who
were screened with
Studies found that
are less reliable in
resulting in false
In November 2011, the
National Medical As-
ed that black men
continue to undergo
CT scans carry their
own risks, due to ra-
diation exposure. Talk
to your doctor about
the risks and benefits.
If you have a family
history of breast can-
cer, talk to your doctor
about whether you
should get annual
mammograms or MRIs.
nologies, and screenings, many experts believe the time is
coming when most cancers will become chronic illnesses
rather than fatal ones.
“We are right at the promised land,” Garber insists. “In
1971, we had faith and hope. Now we have the map.” ;
Tom Slear last wrote for AARP THE MAGAZINE about hip frac-
tures, in the November 2011 issue.