PicturePhoto: Alamy
Talking about cancer is a scary subject for everyone, but new research suggests that men might be significantly more hesitant to discuss the disease than women.

Despite how (sadly) common cancer has become, a
new study carried out by the charity Beating Bowel Cancer found that almost a quarter of men (23%) say they have never spoken to a friend or relative about cancer. This charity encourages people to speak out about the disease, so this is an area that needs serious improvement.

This study led Robert Ince, a writer for the Guardian, to reevaluate his approach.

Ince writes: "The research made me question my own form on talking cancer. Other than a cursory chat to a friend about his mother's breast cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatment, I don't think I had ever talked about the disease to anyone.

"That is until my world was devastated by my father's diagnosis of advanced lung cancer in November 2012. Even though it seemed like every conversation with friends was bookended with the cancer chat, my father never talked about the disease even when he was in the midst of it. Neither do I think he spoke about the subject prior to diagnosis."

This is a major concern, as silence is the disease's strongest ally. In order to create a cancer-free future, we need to feel as comfortable as possible to talk openly about it. This will lead to greater understanding, greater compassion, greater education, greater care.

"Ultimately, ignorance is not bliss," Ince writes. "Only by talking about the subject will we diminish the fear we all have of an illness which can be treated successfully if caught early."

Cancer prevention isn't just a vital public health issue. It's also an economic issue.

In Friday's Arizona Republic, one of the nation's preeminent cancer prevention experts drove that point home.

David S. Alberts, MD, Director Emeritus of the University of Arizona Cancer Center, penned an op-ed for the Phoenix-based newspaper, passionately arguing for the federal government to ramp up its support of cancer prevention research -- not cut back.

"The lunacy in Washington, D.C., these days is not just devastating for our government but also for our economy. It reduces our ability and cuts back our momentum in reducing the risk of cancer in Arizona," Dr. Alberts writes.

During his eight-year tenure as UACC Director, Dr. Alberts built the Cancer Prevention and Control Program into one of the nation's largest prevention programs. In his editorial, he cites the federal government's creation of the Prevention and Public Health Fund in 2010, which was established with the mission of improving the health of U.S. citizens and decreasing health-care spending.

"Rather than targeting this crucial spending for cuts, lawmakers should be making it a national priority," Dr. Alberts argues. "As someone who has made fighting cancer his career, skimping on this kind of spending makes little sense to me. This fund saves lives and saves money. Studies have shown that investing in programs that reduce health risks have a 5-to-1 return on investment, adding up to billions of dollars for state and federal governments over time."

Read the entirety of Dr. Alberts' argument here. It's definitely worth a look. The only fool-proof cure for cancer is to prevent it from occurring in the first place.

PictureImage courtesy of W. Garth Callaghan
Prepare yourself, because after reading some of the notes Garth Callaghan wrote on these napkins, you might need a tissue of your own.

According to Today.com, Callaghan, 44," has battled kidney cancer twice over the last several years and currently lives with prostate cancer, a slow-growing disease. Recent blood work shows 'no evidence' of kidney cancer these days, but Callaghan said his oncologist has bluntly told him that people with his medical history only have an eight percent change of surviving the next five years."

But this isn't a story about cancer. It's a story about a father's love for his daughter, and the importance of expressing that love every chance you can, while you still have the chance to do so.

Starting in kindergarten, Garth left sweet notes on napkins for his daughter, Emma -- the sort of thing a compassionate, loving parents does for a child. It became a daily routine around third grade and has turned into a project that has brought joy and inspiration to folks outside of the Callaghan clan.

The Napkin Notes Dad has one goal -- to write 826 notes, one for each school day his daughter has left until her high school graduation. He's almost there.

“That’s when I thought, I can write out napkin notes ahead of time, and have them ready if I can’t fulfill my own promise if something bad happens,” he told Today.com.

"I love napkin notes for a couple reasons, not just the obvious ones such as knowing my dad is thinking about me or learning a new quotes,” Emma said. “I love them because they remind me not to take things for granted, because my dad started getting serious with them when he had cancer for the first time.” 

Read a few of them here, or buy the full collection anywhere eBooks/digital media is sold.

* The Napkin Notes Dad
* Dad with cancer writes daughter 826 notes to last after he's gone (Today.com, Jan. 27, 2014)

We have been hearing the same message for years now: to reduce your cancer risk, regardless of age, we need to eat a healthy diet, be active daily, avoid or limit alcohol, and don’t smoke.

The reason we continue to hear this message? It works.

According to a study published in Cancer Prevention Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research, "postmenopausal women whose behaviors were consistent with the Nutrition and Physical Activity Cancer Prevention Guidelines put forth by the American Cancer Society had lower risk for cancer incidence, and cancer-related and cancer-unrelated death."

Cynthia Thomson, PhD, RD, CSO, University of Arizona Cancer Center member and professor of public health at the University of Arizona’s Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, was among the study's key contributors, and she discovered that those who follow the guidelines have a "17 percent lower risk for cancer incidence, 20 percent lower risk for cancer-related death, and 27 percent lower risk for death from all causes."

Also mentioned in Gerri Kelly's story? Dr. Thomson found that "the association was stronger for Asian, African-American, and Hispanic women, compared with non-Hispanic white women. It is possible that different ethnic groups may have differential disease course with varied response to environmental and/or behavioral exposures."

So even if you've heard it all before, it's never too late to take this message to heart. Eat right, exercise, never smoke, and cut the alcohol intake, and you'll be on your way toward reducing your cancer risk.

• Cancer risk lower in women adhering to cancer prevention guidelines (arizonacancercenter.org, Jan. 8, 2014)

PictureImage via AZ Public Media
Renowned bioinformatician Yves A. Lussier, MD, FAMCI, gave one of his first major interviews since joining the Arizona Health Sciences Center, speaking with host Alan Fischer and the wonderful folks at AZ Illustrated.

Dr. Lussier, who joined ASHC on Dec. 2, serves as UA professor of medicine; associate vice president for health sciences and chief knowledge officer for AHSC; associate director for cancer informatics and precision health for the University of Arizona Cancer Center; and associate director, BIO5 informatics, for the UA BIO5 Institute.

So what exactly is bioinformatics?

"Since the advent of the human genome in 2001, there's this nascent field of trying to translate in words that physicians can understand the meaning of the genome for clinical practice," Dr. Lussier said.

His primary role within AHSC will be to develop more personalized treatments for cancer patients, while lending his unique areas of expertise to various fields of study.

Watch the entire interview at the Arizona Public Media website.

Emerging field of bioinformatics connects docs, gene researchers (Arizona Public Media, Dec. 10, 2013)
Renowned bioinformatician Yves A. Lussier, MD, FAMCI, joins UACC (ArizonaCancerCenter.org, Nov. 27, 2013)

Most folks spend the days right after Thanksgiving searching for the best deals to get ahead on their holiday shopping. Just because Cyber Monday has passed, though, it doesn't mean people have finished scouring the web for bargains.

If you or someone you know shops at Amazon.com, please consider using our affiliate link. Just click the link below and shop as you normally would. Any purchases made through this site help to support the University of Arizona Cancer Center, our research, our patients, and a cancer-free future.

Thank you for supporting your University of Arizona Cancer Center, and happy holidays!
PicturePhoto: SusanaSoares.com
Here is the latest entry in our ongoing coverage of unorthodox cancer-fighting strategies: trained honeybees that can actually smell cancer.

From MashableNew research from Inscentinel, a UK-based firm specializing in insect research, suggests that honey bees can be trained to detect certain early-stage cancer in humans.

Yes, honeybees may be the trained, much like service dogs, to help save lives. Their ultra-sensitive sense of smell has already been harnessed to aid in the detection of explosive devices, but scientists believe these bees can be used to identify "biomarkers associated with tuberculosis, lung cancer, skin cancer and diabetes" -- each of which can all be detected through smell on a patient's breath.

Susana Sores, a Portuguese designer/researcher, has developed a device that will allow patients to take advantage of these bees' phenomenal sniffers, while keeping them safe from beestings. Early results are very encouraging, so this appears to be a development worth tracking.

• Inscentinel.com (official 
• Susana Sores (official website)

If you spent any time on the internet the past few days, then it's likely that you were swept up by the adventures of Batkid.

Five-year-old Miles has been battling acute lymphoblastic leukemia since before he turned two. Patricia Wilson, the Make-A-Wish Foundation’s Bay Area executive director, heard about his story and enlisted the entire city of San Francisco to help Miles achieve his dream.

This weekend, we saw Batkid save Gotham-by-way-of-San-Fran and renew everyone's faith in humanity. Type "Batkid" into Google and read everything you can find on it, but start with these letters sent into the San Francisco Chronicle. I can't remember anything quite so sweet. Three cheers for Batkid!

Our latest issue of Act Against Cancer has arrived, and we couldn't be more proud of how this edition turned out.

We conducted around a dozen interviews and poured through hundreds of historical documents and photos to tell the story of this tremendous organization. In the fight against cancer, it's important to know where you came from so you can effectively decide where you want to go.

This issue covers the early days of the National Cancer Act, the circumstances that led to the formation of the University of Arizona Cancer Center, and the unique leadership abilities of Sydney E. Salmon, MD, as the UACC became one of the research world's most influential and respected institutions.

We delve into the UACC's atmosphere of innovation and imagination, and how that led to some major breakthroughs in translational research, as well as how that spirit of teamwork and will carry us -- and the field of cancer research as a whole -- through the present and into the future to help everyone achieve our common goal: to prevent and cure cancer.

Download the PDF here, but be sure to also visit our website at arizonacancercenter.org, where we'll be supplementing these stories with audio clips from the researchers who have been there from the beginning.

PictureChristian von Wagner, PhD
If you are reading this blog post right now, you may be on your way toward better cancer prevention techniques.

According to a study published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, older men and women who used the internet were more likely to participate in screening for colorectal cancer, participate in physical activities, eat healthily, and smoke less, compared with those who did not use the internet.

From the study, via the American Association of Cancer Research: "A large, population-based, cohort study of older adults in England, called the English Longitudinal Study of Aging, collected data from men and women aged 50 or older, and found that men and women who were consistent internet users were twice as likely to participate in colorectal screening than nonusers. Both men and women who used the internet consistently were also 50 percent more likely to take part in regular physical activity, 24 percent more likely to eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily, and 44 percent less likely to be current smokers."

“We accounted for sociodemographic factors that influence internet use and various measures of physical capabilities and cognitive function that decline with age, and still found an association between internet use and cancer-preventive behaviors,” said Christian von Wagner, Ph.D., senior lecturer in behavioral research in early diagnosis of cancer at the University College London, United Kingdom. “The interesting aspect here is a dose-response relationship between internet use and cancer preventive-behaviors: Intermittent users were more likely to have cancer-preventive behaviors than never-users, and consistent users were more likely to have cancer-preventive behaviors than intermittent users.”

The issue at hand here is what is known as a "digital divide" -- internet use is not consistent across socio-economic categories. According to the study, internet use was higher in younger, male, white, wealthier, and more educated participants and lower in older, less wealthy, and nonwhite individuals with physical disabilities.

“It is important that policymakers recognize the role internet use plays in influencing inequalities in cancer outcomes, and help increase access to the internet among this demographic,” he said.