February observed as National Cancer Prevention Month

Governor Mike Dunleavy issued a proclamation celebrating cancer awareness day.
Published: Feb. 16, 2023 at 9:46 AM AKST
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Worldwide, cancer is the second leading cause of death, while in Alaska, cancer has been the leading cause of death since 1993.

Earlier this month, Governor Mike Dunleavy issued a proclamation celebrating Cancer Awareness Day on February 4, 2023.

In the proclamation, Dunleavy states, “I, Mike Dunleavy, GOVERNOR OF THE STATE OF ALASKA, do hereby proclaim February 4, 2023, as Cancer Awareness Day in Alaska, and encourage all Alaskans to become educated about the risks of developing cancer, assist in raising awareness about this devastating disease, and support those affected.”

More than 2,000 Alaskans are diagnosed with multiple forms of cancer each year, that’s according to research from the State of Alaska.

Other leading causes of death among Alaskans include heart disease, accidents, covid-19, and stroke.

Some research has shown cancer deaths continue to drop nationwide, although, there is evidence in the United States and worldwide, that more individuals under the age of 50 are being diagnosed with cancer.

“It’s a very concerning trend for sure. ... and one we see in clinics all the time.” said Dr. Suneel Kamath, Oncologist with the Cleveland Clinic.

He said as he looks through his schedule book, many of the ages of patients coming in are younger than 50 years old. “I just kind of scan through the ages of the patients coming in. There are a lot more people in their 20s and 30s that weren’t here in the past,” said Kamath.

Dr. Kamath says there’s no one definitive answer for why people under 50 are getting early-onset cancer and more research needs to be done.

However, according to a study from the Cleveland Clinic, part of the rise in cancer cases may be due to people getting screenings done at a younger age. Other factors could be related to dietary, lifestyle, and environmental exposures.

Some researchers also noted specifically that obesity seems to play a role.

Dr. Kamath says he agrees with that finding, especially since obesity rates have gone up since the 1950′s.

Today, nearly 75 percent of Americans are considered overweight or obese. That number was under 40 percent 25 years ago, according to a Cleveland Clinic contributing writer.

“We know that calorie excess really causes a lot of harmful things in terms of metabolism, inflammation all of those things can be triggers for cancer,” said Kamath. “And because excess weight is such a global risk factor, it really could affect many different tumor types.”

As far as prevention is concerned, doctor Kamath recommends keeping a healthy weight, regularly exercising, eating a diet rich in vegetables and fruits keeping up to date on annual screenings.

More information regarding the leading causes of death in Alaska can be found online at Alaska Division of Public Health, Leading Causes of Death in Alaska, 2017 and National Center for Health Statistics, Alaska Stats.