OUR VIEW: Choices made early can prevent cancer

By NEMS Daily Journal

Last week, the federal Centers for Disease Control reported that Mississippi is the only state not having a reduction in the death rate from colon cancer during the last decade.
Earlier, an independent center at the University of Washington reported declines in life expectancy in several categories of Mississippians.
Earlier this month Mississippi again led the nation in the obesity rate: More than 34 percent of all residents. Nine of the 10 states with highest obesity rates are in the South; Michigan is the exception.
A cluster of personal, genetic, racial and economic reasons – largely inter-related – contribute to Mississippi’s serious public health issues.
The colon cancer rate is linked to diets too high in fat, especially animal facts, too many carbohydrates, lack of exercise, a high statewide diabetes rate, and a proportionately high African-American population, among whom colon cancer rates and other negative health factors are higher.
Most discouragingly, the CDC reports that because “people tend to underreport their weight, the percentage of people who are obese is probably higher than the statistics indicate.”
The most helpful long-term preventive measure is a healthy lifestyle that includes regular, brisk exercise and a healthy diet, but the rate could be reduced if people, especially men 50 and over, had timely screening, especially colonoscopies, at a rate higher than Mississippi’s 58 percent.
Good personal choices, however, are also critical. The National Cancer Institute reports that a simple personal decision to regularly exercise can have great benefit “with reduced risk of cancers of the colon and breast … and several studies have also reported links between physical activity and reduced risk of endometrial (lining of the uterus), lung, and prostate cancers.”
Ongoing National Cancer Institute-funded studies “are exploring the role of physical activity in cancer survivorship and quality of life, cancer risk, and the needs of populations at increased risk.”
The personal choices that make a difference and move people toward good health, in the main, are free because they are issues of free time and old-fashioned self-discipline.
Smoking cessation, for example, reduces the risk or probability of lung, colon, stomach and esophageal cancers, to mention a few, and makes rigorous exercise easier and more beneficial.
Mississippians spend huge sums treating diseases, and the state devotes billions to caring for the indigent, but costs in both categories can be controlled with timely, correct personal choices.