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And it really upset the anti-smoking people, it upset the folks who are in the nutrition and physical activity for cancer prevention -- Bert Vogelstein really upset the prevention crowd, keep in mind it's a mathematical simulation, it's not a clinical trial, but [ Vogelstein is ] noting that a certain number of cases are due to replication error, DNA replication error, in normal growth.
There's a tendency in the US to think that every screening test is great. Unfortunately there are screening tests that actually cause more harm than good, in the 1960s and 1970s, we stopped doing chest X-ray screening for lung cancer because, after 20 years of doing it, we finally got around to doing an assessment and we found the death rates were higher in the screened versus the unscreened group.
I don't think the two diseases ought to be competing against each other, i think we need to realize that some of the causes of heart diseases are major causes of cancer. We talk a lot about high caloric intake, obesity and lack of physical activity. Those are risk factors for heart disease, as well as cancer. We talk a great deal about tobacco use. That's a risk factor for heart disease as well as cancer. We need to double down and work on all of those things.
We need to also focus on the fact that there are some good screening tests that actually clearly save lives, that we are not using enough, i would point out that 55% to 60% of Americans over the age of 50 are up do date on colorectal cancer screening. We could save a lot of lives if we could just get to 80% by 2018. We could help to decrease the cancer death rate that way. I would point out that there is no debate that mammography saves lives -- and if you look at women over the age of 45, about a third to 40% are not up to date on mammography. Many have never actually even had a mammogram, and we need to work on that.
We've done the science. We've proven that it lowers the risk for women at high risk and I don't understand why more people won't take it, we have a large number of women who are undergoing the surgical removal of both breasts to reduce their risk of breast cancer, yet we have a pill with very few side effects that can prevent cancer and people are passing it up.
Go talk to your internist who did the referral, that's someone with whom you should have an open and honest conversation about this. You should be getting, at the absolute minimum, a high-quality mammogram every year with a radiologist who is aware of the previous diagnosis. She should perhaps consider getting an MRI screening.
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