Contact: Beth Bukata
American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology
Internet resources and access remain scarce
Although Spanish-speaking cancer patients are rapidly increasing their search for patient education resources on the Internet, there are very few Spanish-language Web sites available to provide this information, according to a study presented October 28, 2007, at the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology’s 49th Annual Meeting in Los Angeles.
Spanish-speaking cancer patients were also shown to have more limited access to the Internet compared to English-speaking users of cancer information Web sites, based on the user patterns of the two groups.
“There is an urgent need for more Web-based information to be more available to Spanish-speaking patients with cancer, and Internet access needs to be more widely available,” said Charles Simone II, M.D., lead author of the study and a radiation oncologist at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. “The increased knowledge gained among these patients will help to eliminate healthcare disparities and lead to improved medical outcomes.”
The Spanish-language cancer information Web site, OncoLink en español, quadrupled their number of unique visitors last year, from 7,000 visitors per month in January 2006 to nearly 29,000 monthly visitors by the end of the year. More than 200,000 users visited the Web site in 2006.
In contrast, the English-language version of the site, OncoLink, had nearly 2 million visitors last year, although their number of unique visitors did not increase throughout the year. OncoLink en espanõl was launched in 2005 by OncoLink, one of the oldest and largest Internet-based cancer information resources. Both sites are managed by the University of Pennsylvania.
The study shows that OncoLink en español users were less likely to browse the Internet during weekends and morning hours, compared to the users who browsed OncoLink, suggesting that they are accessing the Internet more through work or specialized services.
In addition to when they accessed the Internet, OncoLink en español users also differed on the types of cancers they searched for, as well as the timing and method of their Internet search patterns.
“Awareness of these differences can assist cancer education Web sites to tailor their content to best meet the needs of their Spanish-speaking users,” said Dr. Simone.
The study was carried out using AWStats, a Web-data analyzing program, to collect and compare statistical data from the secure servers of both language versions of OncoLink.
For more information on radiation therapy in English and in Spanish, visit http://www.rtanswers.org.
The abstract, “The Utilization of Radiation Oncology Web-based Resources in Spanish-speaking Oncology Patients,” will be presented for poster viewing starting at 10:00 a.m, Sunday, October 28, 2007. To speak to the study author, Charles Simone, II, M.D, please call Beth Bukata or Nicole Napoli October 28-31, 2007, in the ASTRO Press Room at the Los Angeles Convention Center at 213-743-6222 or 213-743-6223. You may also e-mail them at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Anti-smoking ads that reveal the tobacco industry’s deceptive practices have been aggressively quashed through various methods found Temple University Assistant Professor Jennifer K. Ibrahim, co-author of an analysis in the August issue of the American Journal of Public Health.
In the article, Ibrahim tracks the rise and fall of state and national efforts to curb smoking for the past 40 years. She chronicles industry strategies to prevent a campaign’s creation, steer messages to smaller audiences, limit the content of the message, limit or eliminate the campaign’s funding, and pursue litigation against the campaign. Ibrahim looks at campaigns in Minnesota, California, Arizona, Oregon, Florida, and a national campaign from the American Legacy Foundation.
“It tells the story behind the smoke. People often judge these ads and now you know what the tobacco industry was doing trying to undermine them,” Ibrahim said.
Research has found ads that reveal the deceptive practices of the tobacco industry are the most effective media campaigns that reduce smoking rates, she said.
For example, one billboard in California read “Tobacco is legal, profitable, and kills people” featuring an alligator labeled big tobacco with a smirk saying “Two out of three’s not bad.”
However, these messages aren’t always getting out there because of the money spent by the tobacco industry to eliminate them, said Ibrahim, an assistant professor of public health.
State health departments face an uphill battle when dealing with the political clout of the industry with its lobbying, campaign contributions and specials events, Ibrahim said.
One tactic also involves the industry producing its own ineffective campaigns in order to portray state programs as duplicative and a waste of public dollars. Campaigns designed by the tobacco companies patronize youth in their early teen years, with messages like “Think, Don’t smoke”, Ibrahim said.
In contrast, Florida’s “truth” anti-smoking campaign empowered them by giving them information about how the tobacco industry tried to manipulate by marketing.
The tobacco industry has spent more money in advertising in light of successful media campaigns that target large audiences.
From 1975 to 2003, tobacco industry expenditures in advertising and promotion grew from $491 million to $15.5 billion. During this period, the percentage of smokers in the United States fell from about 37 percent to 22 percent, according to the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System.
Attitudes are changing as the public is becoming more aware about the dangers of smoking, secondhand smoke, and the deceptive practices of the industry, Ibrahim said.
While the numbers offer some promise, more initiatives are needed to keep anti-smoking efforts alive.
“It’s naïve to think the industry is still not following these practices and preparing tactics to respond,” Ibrahim said.
The Master Settlement Agreement in 1998 marked an important step when seven tobacco companies agreed to change the way tobacco products are marketed, release previously secret industry documents, dispand trade groups, and pay the states an estimated $206 billion. The tobacco companies also agreed to finance a $1.5 billion public anti-smoking campaign.
States’ attorney generals continue to enforce the provisions of the agreement, Ibrahim said.
A recent product that has created uproar is Camel’s No. 9s pink cigarettes that public health advocates say target teenage girls not women. In June, congress sent a letter to the editors of 11 major magazines, from Glamour to Cosmopolitan, requesting them to stop running the ads for the cigarettes.
Aggressive efforts to battle current marketing efforts and litigation from the tobacco industry are vital to keep the best media campaigns from disappearing, Ibrahim said.
“The efforts put forth by California and the American Legacy Foundation as they pursued legal battles with tobacco companies provide a good example of the tenacity needed to successfully defend and promote tobacco control campaigns,” said Ibrahim. “Persistence can pay off. We need to go with campaigns that work,”
The research was funded by the National Cancer Institute. For the article, Ibrahim collected the data, conducted the analysis, and drafted the article. Co-author Stanton A. Glantz from the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California, San Francisco, supervised the data collection, edited and revised the article.
Contact: Anna Nguyen
Contact: Greg Lester
American Association for Cancer Research
Variations in two genes related to inflammation may be a major risk factor for developing lung cancer, according to a team of scientists from the National Cancer Institute and the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center. The effect of these genes is especially strong among heavy smokers, suggesting that the inflammatory response is important in modulating the damage caused by tobacco smoke.
Their study, published in the July 1 issue of Cancer Research, a publication of the American Association for Cancer Research, is the first to pinpoint the mechanism by which damage to the lung might trigger an overzealous inflammatory response by the immune system, leading to lung cancer. The variants, or polymorphisms, were found in genes for interleukin 1A and interleukin 1B, two signaling molecules that immune system cells secrete in response to infection or tissue damage.
“Our findings help explain how heavy smoking, for example, combines with a genetic predisposition to create a besieged environment within the lungs,” said lead author Eric Engels, M.D., MPH, researcher at the Viral Epidemiology Branch of the NCI’s Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics. “Essentially, sustained inflammation alters the microenvironment of the lung tissue, damaging cells and altering DNA.”
Inflammation is part of the immune system’s arsenal to combat the effects of infection and cell damage. However, prolonged or intense inflammation could lead to conditions within the lung environment that foster cancer, Engels said. Previous studies have shown that diseases associated with lung damage, such as tuberculosis and asthma, increase the risk of developing lung cancer. Likewise, exposure to tissue-damaging substances like silica and asbestos, inhaled into the lungs, has also been shown to increases lung cancer risk.
“Inflammation has long been thought to be a factor in many cancers, including lung cancer, and could provide an explanation how damage to lung tissue leads to cancer,” Engels said. “Knowing more about the downstream effects of these polymorphisms, and discovering others like them, will increase our understanding of how some people are predisposed to developing cancer.”
To examine the relationship between inflammation and lung cancer risk, the researchers compared differences in genes related to inflammation between more than 1,500 lung cancer patients and 1,700 controls at M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. More than 80 percent of the cancer patients in the study were current or former smokers. Among the 59 variations in 37 inflammation-related genes studied, the researchers discovered that some variants in the genes for interleukin (IL) 1A and 1B, are found more frequently in patients with lung cancer — and especially among heavy smokers. The effect was most profound in polymorphisms in IL1B, which is central to the inflammation process, the researchers said.
According to Engels, the IL1B protein is an integral part of the chemical cascade by which cell signals moderate the response to inflammation. Variations in the gene may lead to greater expression of the protein, which is more likely to turn on the cascade and sustain the damaging effects of inflammation. Over time, the constant damage of inflammation could lead to genetic damage and cancer, Engels said.
The researchers believe their findings will provide the basis for further lung cancer research as well as a model for examining the nature of inflammation in other types of cancer.
“While smoking is still the greatest risk factor, we still do not understand how other factors play a role,” Engels said. “A better understanding of the risks involving inflammation will lead to a better understanding of cancer prevention.”
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