COMMENTS: Big C Gets Smaller

The annual report by the National Cancer Institute showing progress in the War on Cancer was covered by Robert Bazell on NBC and John McKenzie on ABC. Fewer Americans are getting tumors; fewer Americans are dying from cancer. Cancer kills 562,000 people each year nationwide, a death rate that is 12% lower in women and 20% lower in men than 15 years ago. Cancers of the colon, the prostate, the breast and the lung are all killing fewer people--except for lung cancer in women, "because of smoking patterns in the '60s and '70s," Bazell's expert sources told him.

In his A Closer Look, ABC's McKenzie focused on the improvement in colon cancer deaths, which now stand at 50,000 annually. He reported that half of the improvement derives from lifestyle changes--eating less red meat, fewer people smoking, more calcium and folate in the diet, medication with aspirin--and half derives from increased colonoscopy screening.

CBS anchor Katie Couric, who was widowed by colon cancer, is a colonoscopy activist. She invited Dr Mark Pocaphin into the studio to extol the virtues of colonoscopy, compared with PSA tests for prostate cancer and mammograms for breast cancer. "We are finding something before it turns cancerous," Pochapin explained. "Most cancer screening is looking for an early cancer." Pochapin was identified as representing the Jay Monahan Center for Gastro-Intestinal Health. Monahan is the name of Couric's late husband, although she did not inform us of that fact.


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