Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Obesity Epidemic from a Personal Perspective

National Public Radio (NPR) is running a new series of stories over the next few months on the obesity epidemic, called Living Large: Obesity in America.  Monday's piece in the series featured a woman named Kara Curtis and was an amazing profile that detailed on a very personal level what makes the battle against obesity so tough.  There are the internal struggles, of course, but there are also the social, environmental, and hereditary issues that play such key roles as well.  For me, what made this piece so good was that it touched on all these critical issues but never without losing the perspective of how they all come together to impact the individual - and their goals, and their relationships, and their emotions and feelings.

If you haven't listened to it, it's worth seven minutes of your time:  One Woman's Struggle to Shed Weight, and Shame (NPR).

Friday, July 15, 2011

That's a Wrap: Images of Smoking Way Down in Youth Movies

In what can only be viewed as a positive in the fight against tobacco, a new federal report finds that images of smoking in youth-oriented movies have plummeted since 2005.  In movies rated G and PG, the rate of tobacco "incidents" (as the report calls them) fell by over 90 percent (see figure).  Even in PG-13 and R rated movies, rates fell by over 60 percent and 40 percent, respectively.

Smoking in teens and young adults often leads to long-term, and frequently, lifetime smoking habits.  Quitting is possible but difficult for many.  So the best approach for cutting down on smoking rates is to stop smoking before it starts, which means fostering environments and communities that, at a minimum, don't promote and glamorize tobacco use.

Moves by studios and film makers to limit such images in youth-oriented movies are a great addition to efforts to prevent tobacco use.  If maintained over time, they could help provide real and lasting benefits for the nation's health.

The figure above shows the number of tobacco incidents in top-grossing movies, by rating, in the United States during 1991-2010. From 2005 to 2010, the total number of tobacco incidents in top-grossing movies decreased 56.0%, from 4,152 to 1,825. The total number of incidents in G or PG movies decreased 93.6%, from 472 to 30, whereas the number in PG-13 movies decreased 65.1%, from 1,621 to 565, and the number in R-rated movies decreased 40.5%, from 2,059 to 1,226 (Source: CDC).

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Colorectal Cancer: Screening Rates Up; New Cases and Mortality Down

A new federal report out yesterday may put some wind in the sails of those who work in the field of cancer prevention.  The July 5 issue of CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report shows that rates of screening for colorectal cancer have been climbing steadily between 2002 and 2010, with a related drop in rates of new cases and mortality from the disease (report).  Over that eight year period, the percentage of people between ages 50 - 75 who got recommended screening tests rose from 52 percent to 65 percent.  Rates of new cases (incidence rate) and death from colorectal cancer over that period declined by three percent each year (see figure).

Unlike screening for some other cancers, screening for colon cancer can both find the disease early when its most treatable and prevent the disease by finding and removing pre-cancerous growths.  For more on screening and lowering the risk of colorectal cancer, visit Your Disease Risk (

The figure above shows declines in colorectal cancer (CRC) incidence from 59.5 per 100,000 population in 1975 to 44.7 in 2007 and in the CRC death rate from 28.6 per 100,000 population in 1976 to 16.7 in 2007 and the corresponding Healthy People 2020 targets of 38.6 per 100,000 and 14.5, respectively. Source CDC MMWR, July 5, 2011 (Fig 3)