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iStock_000007172534Small.jpgBy John Chattaway

As a part of MD Anderson's mission to end cancer, we're aspiring to raise the first tobacco-free generation. It's this goal that led to the creation of the ASPIRE program.

ASPIRE, which stands for A Smoking Prevention Interactive Experience, aims to educate teens about the dangers of tobacco use, so they never start smoking. For teens who already use tobacco, it provides information and strategies to quit smoking.

This free, web-based school curriculum has enrolled participants from 28 states and one international city. The program is available in both English and Spanish.

"Young people are very picky about what and how they are taught," says Alexander Prokhorov, M.D., Ph.D., professor of Behavioral Science and director of the Tobacco Outreach Education Program. "That's why we created this online course that is fun, interactive and entertaining while still being educational."

Online tobacco and smoking prevention
ASPIRE can be accessed by anyone through the MD Anderson website. It offers information tailored specifically for one person or for groups. Those who have never smoked can use ASPIRE to learn why it's important to avoid tobacco and how to talk to others about the harms of tobacco.

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By Robert Bresalier, M.D.

Colorectal cancer is the third most common cancer in both men and women in the United States, and the third leading cause of cancer death.

Colorectal cancer develops in the colon or rectum, and grows slowly. In 2014, there will be an estimated 141,000 new colorectal cancer cases in the United States and 49,000 related deaths.  But colorectal cancer is preventable and curable when detected early.

Here are my top four tips to help lower your risks for colorectal cancer:

Tip 1: Get screened for colorectal cancer
Screening remains the most important method to prevent colorectal cancer. People at average risk, age 50 and older, should get a colonoscopy every 10 years. A colonoscopy enables your doctor to detect potentially cancer-causing lesions or polyps early, and remove them.

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By Amanda Woodward

Because of my melanoma diagnosis, I consider myself a student of sun safety. I've learned to be diligent and cautious about my sun exposure while still getting out and enjoying the season.

However, there's a bit more to it than that. I needed to redefine beautiful as it pertains to skin. As a teen, I saw my peers tanning and was very much aware that tanned skin  was their idea of attractive. Thankfully, society seems to be moving to a place where we see pale skin and consider it healthy, beautiful and classic. I'll take that!

Here are some of my favorite tips and tricks to being safe in the sun and fashionably pale:

By Katrina Burton

MD Anderson is standing by a recommendation that women 40 years old and older receive annual mammograms, despite a recent study that raised controversy regarding breast cancer screening.

"We are not recommending that women change their screening practices," says Therese Bevers, M.D., medical director of MD Anderson's Cancer Prevention Center. "We stand by our guidelines that recommend women have annual mammograms beginning at age 40 and continue to be screened as long as they are in good health."

But a study by the Canadian National Breast Screening says annual mammography in women ages 40-59 does not reduce mortality from breast cancer and mammography screening should be revisited.

The results of the study, published in the BMJ Journal on Feb. 11, are in direct contrast to the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendation that  women should begin annual mammograms starting at age 50, and of guidelines by MD Anderson, the American Cancer Society and others that call for annual breast cancer screening to begin at age 40.

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By Jenny Montgomery


When Sara Souto Strom was growing up in Argentina, she wanted to be a mathematician. But she became a marine biologist instead. Then a cancer researcher.


That's what can happen when nothing much daunts you, not even pursuing a Ph.D. or two.

Now an associate professor in Epidemiology, she's followed a career path that looks a lot like an expedition.


Call of the wild

Strom recalls having a scientific, inquiring mind even as a child in Buenos Aires. Whether exploring the patterns of numbers or nature, Strom was drawn to discovery. When her twin sister was getting interested in boys, Strom was getting serious about zoology.

It wasn't merely the dispassionate interest of a scientist.


"I still like any animal that moves," she says. "Jellyfish, lizards, horses. Human beings, too. They all need help."


Eventually Strom set her sights on marine biology, and she spent seven years earning bachelor's, master's and doctorate degrees from the University of Buenos Aires.


Her research as a marine biologist led her to the discovery of a new species of one-celled protozoa -- and to her future husband. She was studying plankton on a research vessel off the coast of Antarctica when she met Gary Strom. He was the American-born first mate.

quit_smoking_how_to_curb_the_urge.JPGThis Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014, marks the 50th anniversary of the Surgeon General's 1964 Report on Smoking and Health, the first major statement in the United States linking smoking to lung cancer.

With more than 200,000 people diagnosed with lung cancer each year in the United States and smoking contributing to 87% of lung cancer deaths and 30% of all cancer deaths, this landmark report and the 30 subsequent Surgeon General's Reports on smoking have greatly influenced what we do here at MD Anderson.

Here are four ways the Surgeon General's Report has impacted our work and -- and our cancer patients and their families.

1.    We've hired more researchers focused on smoking and cancer.
"The 1964 Surgeon General's Report set the stage for extraordinary increase in knowledge and research on tobacco and cancer that's occurred since then," says Ellen R. Gritz, Ph.D., chair of Behavioral Science at MD Anderson and an author and/or editor for nine Surgeon General's reports on smoking and tobacco.

iStock_000011750431Medium.jpgBy Karen Basen-Engquist, Ph.D.

It's that time of year ... when we resolve to lose weight, exercise more and eat more healthfully.

Changes like these can reduce our chances of developing cancer and improve our overall health and quality of life. But our experience and studies show that New Year's resolutions often fall by the wayside a few weeks into the year. We know what we need to do, and have good intentions, but most of us are not able to turn resolutions into reality.

If you're serious about making changes, consider the following tips.

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By Brittany Cordeiro

Each day in the United States, about 4,000 kids smoke their first cigarette. Many of them will become daily smokers.

"For teens, it may seem cool to smoke. But tobacco use at a young age can cause immediate and long-term health problems like cancer," says Alexander Prokhorov, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Tobacco Outreach Education Program at MD Anderson.

Recent data shows that the declining number of teen tobacco users has stalled. And, the tobacco industry may be to blame.

The industry advertises products, like e-cigarettes, flavored cigarillos and hookahs, as "safe" and is capturing the attention of kids.

"All tobacco products are dangerous," Prokhorov says. "We need to be proactive about educating our communities, schools and governments about the dangers of these products." 

Use the facts below to educate kids about the health risks of trendy tobacco products.

Cigarillos contain dangerous chemicals
Cigar use among high school students rose from 7% in 2009 to 12% in 2011. One main factor: flavored cigarillos.

bowl of fruit.jpgBy Brittany Cordeiro

As a cancer caregiver, you face unique challenges. The loved one you're nurturing often requires your time, energy and attention, making it hard to focus on your health and wellness.

But an unhealthy caregiver could do more harm than good. Your loved one needs you to stay in fighting shape, so you can provide the care he or she needs. Plus, maintaining a healthy diet and weight helps lower your cancer risks.  

Not sure where to start?

"Research shows that making small changes can lead to bigger diet changes over time and better health," says Mary Ellen Herndon, a wellness dietitian at MD Anderson.

Try these smart food tips to maintain good health.

Dine out less
"Restaurant foods are usually loaded with extra fat, salt and calories," Herndon says. "Eating out or getting takeout even just a few times a week can cause weight gain over time."

berries and weights - energy foods.JPGBy Katie Bispeck


It is well-known that obesity is an enormous problem in the United States. More than one-third of U.S. adults are considered obese. 18%  of children ages 6-11 and 18% of adolescents ages 12-19 are obese.

Obesity has been shown to contribute to the development of many diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, high cholesterol and osteoarthritis.

But research also shows that obesity can increase a person's risk of many types of cancer, including breast (after menopause), colon and rectum, endometrial, esophageal (adenocarcinoma), kidney, thyroid, gallbladder and pancreatic cancers.

Scientists say that obesity will soon be the number one preventable cause of cancer and that we should expect to see about 500,000 new cases of cancer as a result of obesity by 2030.

Defining obesity: What your BMI means
The term obese is used to describe a person with an unhealthy proportion of body fat. It's measured by taking a ratio of height-versus-weight. This is called your Body Mass Index (BMI). Adults with a BMI of 30 or more are considered obese. This is typically 50 pounds overweight.

To determine your own BMI, take your weight (kilograms) and divide it by your height (meters squared).

Obesity has become such an important issue that the American Medical Association has recently classified it as a disease.

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By Liz Hill

 

Living in southern Louisiana, my family learned to endure the heat, humidity and sun. But we struggled when it came to protection from its effects, especially sunburns.

 

My mom was a redheaded, blue-eyed, extremely fair-skinned woman. She had her fair share of sun exposure as a child. As an adult, after several basal and squamous skin cancer scares, she realized the value of sunscreen and, really, just avoidance of the sun. She passed those values on to me since I have reddish hair, blue/green eyes and extremely fair skin.

 

My mother's malignant melanoma diagnosis

Mom had a growth on her face that had been examined by a local dermatologist many times, but my mom had been advised not to worry about it. 

With a steady decline in traditional cigarettes, tobacco companies are looking for new ways to get people addicted to smoking. 


Now, with the third largest U.S. tobacco company launching a massive campaign to promote electronic cigarettes, or e-cigarettes, smoking may be on rise again. In fact, about 6% of adults have tried e-cigarettes, a number that has nearly doubled since 2010, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


The e-cigarette is a smokeless electronic device that allows the user to inhale a vapor of liquid nicotine in order to imitate traditional smoking methods. The new gadget is touted as safe and harmless by tobacco companies, but our tobacco prevention and cessation experts tell a different story.

Claims that e-cigarettes are 'safe' are misleading
"We've been telling society for the past 30 years that they shouldn't smoke, and that tobacco is bad," says Paul Cinciripini, Ph.D., director of MD Anderson's Tobacco Treatment Program. "But tobacco companies are smart and have a good marketing strategy when it comes to promoting new products."

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