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Knowledge is power — especially in the fight against cancer.

Odds are, someone in your family history has been diagnosed with some form of cancer. In the American Cancer Society's most recent "Cancer Facts & Figures," they cite that the NCI estimates that more than 12 million Americans with a history of cancer are still alive, while more than 577,000 Americans will likely die from the disease this year.

It's important to know if any of those people reside in your family tree, as it can go a long way toward helping you remain healthy.

The latest issue of Cancer Today has an excellent story written by Mitzi Baker about just how crucial an detailed family history can be when it comes to accurate diagnosis and potential life-saving treatments.

Baker writes that, "Only about 5 to 10 percent of all cancers are the result of inherited genetic mutations, and most cancers occur in people with little or no family history of the disease. But nearly one in four people are estimated to have a family history that suggests a predisposition to cancer," so while it isn't going to solve every cancer problem, a working knowledge of your family history can often save one's life.

Baker tells the story of Sue Friedman, whose "diagnosis of stage II breast cancer at age 34 was the result of a genetic mutation that was lurking in that branch of her family tree." Please be sure to read the entire story, as it also contains helpful links to help you start your own family history, as well as what to look for in terms of hereditary cancer symptoms.

• The Family Cancer Tree (Cancer Today, Summer 2012)
• Cancer Facts & Figures 2012 (cancer.org)

 
 
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A.E. Araiza, Arizona Daily Star (photo)
In medical research and drug development, the biggest discoveries are often found in the most microscopic packages.

The Sanofi research center in Southern Arizona is among the best at searching for those needles (the potentially useful molecules that may have medical application) in the vast haystacks of scientific discovery.

In the July 24 edition of the Arizona Daily Star, assistant business editor David Wichner wrote about the exciting possibilities at the Sanofi research center in Oro Valley — a lab with significant ties to the University of Arizona, as well as the Cancer Center.

UACC founding director Sydney Salmon, former UACC member Kit Lam, and current UACC members Victor Hruby and Evan Hersh formed Selectide Corp. in 1990, which, according to Wichner, "was sold to Marion Merrill Dow in 1995 for $53 million, and through a series of sales and mergers became part of Sanofi in 2004." Sanofi is an enormous French-based multinational pharmaceutical company with more than a dozen potential drug launches set for the next few years.


 
 
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Courtesy of the FTC
Have you come across a "miraculous" cancer-curing product that almost seems too good to be true? Don't purchase it just yet. Chances are, someone is trying to scam you.

Cancer patients and their loved ones are among the top targets for slimy con artists, looking to turn a quick buck at the expense of someone's pain and vulnerability. We all must remain vigilant against anyone attempting to exploit a tragedy for personal gain.

Thankfully, the Federal Trade Commission has stepped up and created this handy, easy-to-use website as a guide to help consumers fight scams, as well as a place to report anything that sounds or appears suspicious.


 
 
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Courtesy of "The Health Care Blog"
The clinical trial process is perhaps the most integral component to modern medical innovation. Without clinical trials, many life-saving medications and treatment techniques would never reach the public.

Unfortunately, many people know very little about the process or how it can benefit them directly.

A lack of volunteers is among the biggest roadblocks for researchers attempting to develop new pharmaceuticals. In order to develop the most effective clinical trials, an educated and informed patient population is absolutely essential.

Judy Stone, MD, is doing her part to help bring that information to the public. Dr. Stone recently wrote an illuminating article on the clinical trials process, which went into great detail about the importance and the history of clinical trials. Her post, which originally appeared on the Molecules to Medicine blog for The Scientific American, is required reading for any patient who wants to learn more about clinical trials.


 
 
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At this point, we're all aware of just how nasty smoking is. The links to various types of cancer have been proven. The health risks are well documented. The smell is repulsive. Smoking is bad — for you, and everyone surrounding you.

But those who continue to smoke may eventually go broke if they can't kick the habit.

A pack of cigarettes costs, on average, $6 in the United States. It varies from state to state (New Yorkers can often pay more than $10 per pack, while smokers in Virginia pay around $4.60), but smokers all across America — especially younger ones — are thinking twice before lighting up.

If you smoke a pack per day for an entire year, you need to set aside roughly $2,200 per year simply to purchase cigarettes. That's a significant chunk of change, but that doesn't tell the entire story.


 
 
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Each morning, the first thing I do before opening up the blog is I log onto Twitter and take a quick scan through the news of the day. Every once in a while, I see something that really warms my heart.

This post by Eric Alper was one of the most uplifting Tweets I've seen in ages.

Alper, a Canadian musician and blogger who works for eOne Music Distribution, has more than 75,000 Twitter followers. Many of his posts are music-and-media related, but he'll occasionally pass along something he finds funny or inspiring.

Alper writes, "This could be the greatest poster I've ever seen." Attached is a photo of a posterboard affixed to a street sign that contains perhaps the sweetest sentence ever written: "Mom called today to say the cancer's gone and I thought the whole world should know. :) Ashlea."

You're right, Ashlea. The whole world should know. Thank you, Ashlea, and thank you, Eric Alper.

 
 
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T-shirt design by Emily Lee
The American Cancer Society calls itself the official sponsor of birthdays. This year, the ACS has set up quite a present for one talented T-shirt designer.

For the last couple weeks, 75 graphic designers from across the country have submitted their best birthday-themed ideas for the ACS T-shirt Design Challenge. In conjunction with popular online T-shirt design community Threadless, the ACS is planning to give the winner $750 in cash, $250 in Threadless gift certificates, a pair of JetBlue airline tickets, and a Life Bracelet (valued at $150).

There are still three days remaining to submit a design, so if you're graphically inclined, head over to the contest website and show them your idea! Submissions are due by July 19. You can view the current submissions here. Which one is your favorite? Share your opinion in the comments section below.

Click on the Read More link to view the ACS's video clip for the contest.


 
 
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In the near future, David Alberts, MD, will be handing over the keys to what he calls "the best job in the United States" — director of the University of Arizona Cancer Center.

Dr. Alberts recently gave a wide-ranging interview with Eric T. Rosenthal of Oncology Times, where he discussed his role in the search, his continuing research projects, the Cancer Center's plans to expand into the Phoenix area, his thoughts on health and fitness, and his theory that no director should ever stay in office for more than a decade.

“You can begin to lose your edge after 10 years," Dr. Alberts told Rosenthal, "and it’s best for a center to get new blood, new energy, new ideas, and a new direction.”

Dr. Alberts, 72, joined the University of Arizona College of Medicine in 1975 and became director of the Cancer Center in 2005. He has authored or co-authored roughly 500 peer reviewed publications, more than 100 book chapters and 60 invited articles, and has served as editor and co-editor of six books.

The interview was posted to the Oncology Times website on July 10, and will appear in the Aug. 10 print publication.

Click "Read More" to see more highlights from the interview:


 
 
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Soda consumption is a hot-button issue right now.

Between New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s controversial plan to ban “jumbo-sized” soda and other high-calorie drinks (16 ounces being the cut-off point) and the increased push to raise the overall health consciousness in America, soda drinkers find themselves in the middle of a heated, at times contentious debate.

Last week, the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) got involved, sending a letter to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to request a deep and thorough investigation of the negative health impacts of soda and other surgary drinks. The ACS is asking for a study similar to the Surgeon General’s landmark comprehensive report on the dangers of smoking in 1964.

This begs the question: Will cans and bottles of soda eventually be required to carry a Surgeon General’s warning?


 
 
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A team of University of Arizona physicians is collaborating with a medical team in Colombia to facilitate the establishment of an effective multidisciplinary cutaneous oncology program and to initiate collaborative projects in the field of melanoma.

Representatives of the Colombian National Cancer Institute invited University of Arizona Cancer Center physician-scientists to a three-day conference in Bogota in April attended by about 100 clinicians and researchers to discuss ways to establish a multidisciplinary approach to improve the outcomes of patients treated for melanoma at their institution.

The UACC’s multidisciplinary disease-site clinics bring together a team of medical, surgical and radiation oncologists and pathologists to focus on individual cancer cases to develop treatment plans.

Click the "read more" link to see a photo slideshow from the event.