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Report: Largest One-Year Drop in Cancer-Related Deaths Ever

By Tracy Maness

Publication: Houston Chronicle

As a report by the American Cancer Society reveals the largest drop in cancer-related deaths in any one year, one Houston physician discusses what she says contributed to the decline.

Gury Doshi, M.D., is a medical oncologist and hematologist at Texas Oncology–Houston Memorial City and said the 2.2% decrease in deaths from 2016 to 2017 can be attributed mainly to two factors.

“The largest contributing factor, I believe, is that their rates of tobacco use have decreased dramatically. And so the actual U.S. Surgeon General's report came out this past week, and tobacco cigarette smoking rates have declined 70% since 1965,” said Dr. Doshi.

She said that development is very positive and especially highlights the importance of dispersing public health information that smoking and tobacco use are harmful. She added while people often relate tobacco use to lung cancer, many overlook that it also raises their chances of getting head, neck, esophageal, gastric, bladder and breast cancers.

Better cancer treatments that have improved are the other main factor, Dr. Doshi said.

“The largest decrease in mortality was in melanoma. And that is a cancer in which immunotherapy that was first approved in 2011 for melanoma has directly contributed to the decrease in mortality.”

Cancer-related deaths, Dr. Doshi said, can also come as a result of a large disparity in getting cancer care, so she said deaths have not yet declined in certain cancers like prostate, breast and colorectal. She also pointed to geographic and racial disparities, like lack of medical and treatment facilities nearby and how African-American men are more likely to die of prostate cancer.

Dr. Doshi said that it also relates to disparities in basic health care such as men being able to get annual PSA blood tests to screen for prostate cancer or to see a doctor in general.

“I think another part of it when we dial back, when you peel back one layer further, is just access to basic health, right?” she said. “Controlling their diabetes, controlling their obesity, you know? Understanding how these health factors can contribute to their risk of cancers.”

“Excited” by the report, Dr. Doshi said she hopes the trend continues through public health funding and spreading the word about factors about what to avoid and preventative care, plus better and more successful therapies.

Dr. Doshi said, “It's encouraging news and, … I feel that it reinforces the passion that we have to continue to do the work that we're doing in oncology to take care of patients.”

Texas Oncology has more resources and cancer centers across the state. For more information, visit www.texasoncology.com.

View the full story at Houston Chronicle.

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