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Cancer Moonshot Funding Should Focus on Prevention Not just Cure or Treatment

Doctor report and recommend a method with patient treatment, results on brain x-ray film.

The Biden Administration has set what is being deemed a “bold and achievable” goal with its reinvigorated Cancer Moonshot Plan. The initiative, which President Biden originally conceived during the Obama Administration, looks to supercharge the original idea behind it. As of early 2022, President Biden is putting together a Cancer Cabinet whose focus will be to reach beyond biomedical research and develop new ways to screen for — and prevent — cancer. With a large portion of the FDA’s $8.4 billion budget including cancer funding, President Biden’s plan is seeking to cut the rate of cancer death in half over the next 25 years.[1][2]

An Ounce of Prevention
A large portion of the focus of the Cancer Moonshot initiative should be placed on preventative measures. Prevention and new treatments have already contributed to lowering the cancer death rate by 25% in the last 20 years. As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Often, initiatives like President Biden’s Cancer Moonshot shine the spotlight more on a cure and less on prevention.[3]

As stated in a recent Harvard Public Health magazine article, “advances in treatment alone will never be enough to fully stem the burden of cancer.” [4] Public health experts agree that prevention is the only way to truly stem incidents of cancer diagnoses and, overall, save lives. However, the progress made towards prevention opposed to cures dubbed as “miracles” has been slow-going. Compared to other deadly maladies, such as heart disease and widespread infections, the effort to prevent cancer has fallen short.

A significant portion of the population has grappled with the insidious terrors of cancer — or knows someone who has — making a cancer diagnosis one widely-feared by many. Although the causes of cancer vary — with some rearing their ugly heads due to a genetic predisposition or just plain bad luck — many types of cancer, such as lung cancer, can develop due to preventable reasons.

Port Worthy

The Second Leading Cause of Lung Cancer and The Leading Cause of Lung Cancer After Cigarettes
When you know someone who develops lung cancer, your first thought may be that they must have been a chronic cigarette smoker, but there is another cause of lung cancer that many people know little about: radon.

Radon is a colorless, odorless, tasteless, and radioactive gas. The breakdown of radioactive elements, like uranium, in the ground releases this gas into soil and rock. Radon can be found inside homes, especially in areas closest to the ground like basements. Traces of radon can even emanate from natural building materials such as concrete. Radon can also be a problem in the workplace, especially in industrial work environments like mines, uranium processing factories, or those that work with certain fertilizers.

While radon largely dissipates in outdoor spaces, long-term exposure to radon gas trapped indoors is what can lead to cancer. Radon gas breaks down into micro-particles that can get lodged in the lungs, leading to malignancies. According to the American Cancer Society, upwards of 20,000 cancer deaths a year can be linked to radon exposure.[5]

Detection, Mitigation, & Prevention
When considering the long-range goal of the Biden Administration’s Cancer Moonshot, prevention needs to remain front-and-center. The more people learn about radon and how to detect levels in their homes and workspaces, the more we can put real, concentrated efforts toward lessening the number of radon-related cancer cases each year.

Many Americans have never heard the word “radon” until they are ready to buy or sell a home. Currently, 37 states require that the presence (and levels) of radon be disclosed during real estate transactions, but only four states require that a landlord disclose the existence of radon to tenants on a lease. Given the number of rental tenants in the US, this leaves many people in danger of exposure. Furthermore, as of 2021, only 18 states have radon mitigation laws.[6]

These laws all act as preventative measures. Regardless, in some ways, legislation still falls short. Radon is found everywhere, but not necessarily at dangerous levels. Currently, 25 states have radon levels that are in the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) danger zone, while a staggering 45 states have excessive radon levels. Consumer detectors are an essential consideration and solution for lung cancer prevention due to radon exposure.

Many detection options are on the market, from inexpensive consumer detection systems, to professional detection and mitigation services. Since radon levels are fluctuating all of the time, finding an accurate and reliable detection system that continuously monitors the level of radon in your home is the best solution to prevent radon exposure proactively.[7]

When radon is detected in a space, mitigation may be necessary. Per the EPA, if radon levels reach 4 pCi/L or higher, mitigation measures are required.  Some mitigation approaches stop the radon from entering your home in the first place. Others work to remove radon already present indoors and reroute it outside the home.

If prevention becomes a focus of the Cancer Moonshot initiative, more lives can be saved, and — eventually — there will be a notable reduction in overall cancer diagnoses caused by radon exposure. A reduction in cases and deaths from cancer is the initiative’s goal. As such, prevention should be a key consideration for the administration, the Cancer Cabinet, and all of the key stakeholders going forward.

Reference
[1] Biden’s Cancer Moonshot Plan Sets ‘Bold but Achievable’ Goal. Bloomberg Law. Online. Last accesses on May 10, 2022
[2] FDA’s $8.4B budget request includes supply chain, pandemic prep and cancer funding. +Mass Device. Online. Last accessed on May 10, 2022
[3] Fact Sheet: President Biden Reignites Cancer Moonshot to End Cancer as We Know It. The White House Briefing Room. Online. Last accessed on May 10, 2022.
[4] The Cancer Miracle Isn’t a Cure.It’s Prevention.Harvard Public Health. Online. Last accessed May 10, 2022.
[5] Radon and Cancer. American Cancer Society. Online. Last accesses on May 10, 2022.
[6] Does Your State Require Radon Testing. Radon Resources. Online. last accesses on May, 10, 2022/
[7] Get to Know your Radon Levels Fast and Accurate. Ecosense (Corporate website). Online. Last accessed on May, 10, 2022

Featured image: Doctor report and recommend a method with patient treatment, results on brain x-ray film. Photo courtesy: © 2016 – 2022 Fotolia/Adobe. Used with permission.

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