And the research is cutting-edge, says Dr. William G. Nelson, director of the Hopkins center, who pointed to work with the human genome that allows scientists to identify cancer risk and possibly individualize treatments based on a patient's genetic makeup.
Cullen noted new therapies that can not only effectively treat cancer but prevent it, including a vaccine that can help protect women from the types of the human papilloma virus that cause most cervical cancers. He said scientists have also linked the virus to oral cancer, perhaps leading to new prevention methods. And Cullen noted that women at high risk of some kinds of breast cancer may be able to lower their risk by two-thirds by taking an aromatase inhibitor.
New drugs alone are not the full answer, however. Cullen said people might not realize how important their daily activities are. Smoking contributes to at least 10 types of cancer, including the most deadly cancer in the state, lung cancer. Obesity may be a contributor in up to 20 percent of cancer deaths.
"Many cancers are preventable, probably the majority of them; if people did the simple things of not smoking and keeping their body weight in recommended range the overall burden of cancer would probably drop by at least half," Cullen said.
Others involved in the plan said simply going to the doctor on a schedule for age-appropriate screening would help lower the cancer incidence by catching potential problems before they start, or at least early.
In all, the new cancer plan serves as a "call to action," Nelson said. "It also lets everyone know we're keeping score."
Cancer Control Plan
•Aims to control cancer by reducing risk, detecting cancer early, improving treatment and enhancing survivorship.
•Includes goals in the areas of: monitoring; addressing disparities; tobacco use cessation and prevention; nutrition and physical activity; prevention and early detection of skin, colorectal, breast, prostate, oral and cervical cancers; environmental and occupational issues; patient issues and survivorship; pain management; and palliative and hospice care.
•Serves as a resource for health care providers and researchers, policy makers, groups and individuals, and a basis for specific action plans.
•For more information or to see the full plan, go to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene website.