Improved understanding of carcinogenesis has allowed cancer prevention and early detection (also known as cancer control) to expand beyond the identification and avoidance of carcinogens. Specific interventions to prevent cancer in those at risk and effective screening for early detection of cancer are the goals.
Carcinogenesis is not simply an event but a process, a continuum of discrete tissue and cellular changes over time, resulting in more autonomous cellular processes. Prevention concerns the identification and manipulation of the biologic, environmental, and genetic factors in the causal pathway of cancer.
EDUCATION AND HEALTHFUL HABITS
Public education on the avoidance of identified risk factors for cancer and encouraging healthy habits contribute to cancer prevention and control. The clinician is a powerful messenger in this process. The patient-provider encounter provides an opportunity to teach patients about the hazards of smoking, the features of a healthy lifestyle, use of proven cancer screening methods, and sun avoidance.
Tobacco smoking is a strong, modifiable risk factor for cardiovascular disease, pulmonary disease, and cancer. Smokers have an approximately one in three lifetime risk of dying prematurely from a tobacco-related cancer or cardiovascular or pulmonary disease. Tobacco use causes more deaths from cardiovascular disease than from cancer. Lung cancer and cancers of the larynx, oropharynx, esophagus, kidney, bladder, pancreas, and stomach are all tobacco-related.
The number of cigarettes smoked per day and the level of inhalation of cigarette smoke are correlated with risk of lung cancer mortality. Light- and low-tar cigarettes are not safer because smokers tend to inhale them more frequently and deeply.
Those who stop smoking have a 30–50% lower 10-year lung cancer mortality rate compared with those who continue smoking, despite the fact that some carcinogen-induced gene mutations persist for years after smoking cessation. Smoking cessation and avoidance have the potential to save more lives than any other public health activity.
The risk of tobacco smoke is not limited to the smoker. Environmental tobacco smoke, known as secondhand or passive smoke, causes lung cancer and other cardiopulmonary diseases in nonsmokers.
Tobacco prevention is a pediatric issue. More than 80% of adult American smokers began smoking before the age of 18 years. Approximately 20% of Americans in grades 9 through 12 have smoked a cigarette in the past month. Counseling of adolescents and young adults is critical to prevent smoking. A clinician's simple advice to not start smoking or to quit smoking can be of benefit. Providers should query patients on tobacco use and offer smokers assistance in quitting.
Current approaches to smoking cessation recognize that smoking is an addiction. A smoker who is quitting goes through a process with identifiable stages that include contemplation of quitting, an action phase in which the smoker quits, and a maintenance phase. Smokers who quit completely are ...