In this Sept. 5, 2013 file photo, chemotherapy is administered to a cancer patient via intravenous drip in Durham, N.C. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome, File)
Fighting cancer was a major focus of the Obama administration, but not the Trump administration, which has instead launched major initiatives around HIV/AIDS and opioid addiction. But cancer death rates keep steadily declining – especially for melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.
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Fatalities from melanoma have fallen dramatically in the past decade, according to an annual cancer report released this morning by the National Cancer Institute.
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Annual death rates from melanoma declined 8.5 percent among men from 2014 to 2016 and 6.3 percent among women from 2013 to 2016. The improvements are even greater among African Americans, who develop melanoma less often but of more severe varieties.
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Much has been written on the cutting-edge genetically-targeted treatments and immunotherapies cancer researchers are developing . But melanoma is a prime and underappreciated example of how they’re working. Over the last decade, new therapies known as immune checkpoint inhibitors have dramatically improved advanced melanoma survival rates by revving up the body’s own immune system to attack tumor tissue.
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Former President Jimmy Carter had just such an experience. After announcing in August 2015 that his melanoma had spread to his liver and brain, Carter, then 91, underwent radiation followed by immunotherapy. Three months later, his tumors were gone .
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Former President Jimmy Carter teaches Sunday School class at Maranatha Baptist Church in his hometown in Plains, Ga. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File)
“We know new therapies—which have only been around since the early part of this decade—improved the outlook for those with advanced melanoma,” Leonard Lichtenfeld, interim chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society, wrote in a blog post. “However, I for one—and I suspect many others, even experts in the field—didn’t realize the extent of the impact those treatments have had on this dread disease.”
The annual cancer report – which provides a broad update on diagnosis and death rates for the most common cancers in the United States – contains mostly good news but some sobering statistics as well.
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Death rates declined among men, women and children from 1999 to 2016. Rates of new cancers among men decreased from 2008 to 2015 (after increasing in the previous decade), while remaining stable among women during the same time period. The data showed men between ages 20 and 49 get cancer less often than woman in the same age range. But that’s chiefly because the number one female cancer – breast cancer – is frequently found in younger women
Cancers associated with smoking – think lung, bladder and larynx – are continuing to decline. But cancers associated with excess weight and inactivity – including uterine, post-menopausal breast and colorectal – are still increasing
“We are encouraged by the fact that this year’s report continues to show declining cancer mortality for men, women, and children, as well as other indicators of progress,” said Betsy Kohler, executive director of the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries, which helped with the report
Other than calling for more pediatric cancer funding in his State of the Union address this year, President Trump hasn’t often talked about the dreaded disease. He was even criticized for suggesting windmills cause cancer, while speaking at a National Republican Congressional Committee fundraiser
“If you have a windmill anywhere near your house, congratulations, your house just went down 75 percent in value” Trump said. “And they say the noise causes cancer.”
In this Saturday, May 18, 2019 file photo, Democratic presidential candidate, former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a campaign rally at Eakins Oval in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)
There’s been speculation that Joe Biden may bring the fight against cancer to the forefront of his presidential campaign. Through his Biden Cancer Initiative, the former vice president has been leading a focused effort towards finding cures that he first kicked off in 2015 as the Obama White House’s “Cancer Moonshot.”
Biden, who lost his son Beau to brain cancer four years ago today, has been connecting with voters over family tragedies, the New York Times’s Katie Glueck reports . “While political candidates often try to project sympathy — Bill Clinton was especially known for wearing his heart on his sleeve — some Democrats said they felt a bond with Mr. Biden that transcended traditional political factors: They consider him to be a singularly experienced candidate when it comes to endurance and empathy,” she writes
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), another 2020 presidential candidate, frequently mentions her mother’s work as a cancer researcher. She brought it up during an MSNBC town hall on Tuesday while talking about abortion rights
“It’s personal to me,” Harris said. “My mother was a breast cancer researcher — she was one of the very few women of color doing that work — and I remember her coming home and talking about how we as a society have diminished women’s health care issues.”
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SIGN UP NOW AHH, OOF and OUCH Trump arrives on stage to speak to troops at a Memorial Day event aboard the USS Wasp. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
AHH: Trump is preparing to issue an executive order in the next few weeks to foster greater price transparency across a broad swath of the health-care industry, the Post’s Amy Goldstein and Josh Dawsey report
“The most far-reaching element favored by the White House aides developing the order would require insurers and hospitals to disclose for the first time the discounted rates they negotiate for services,” they write. “The idea has stirred such intense industry opposition, however, that it may be dropped from the final version.”
The order could also make it easier for people on Medicare to find out what they would pay for treatment at various hospitals by widening the range of services for which hospitals must post their prices. It may also include an effort to promote more competition among hospitals by slowing a trend toward consolidation
“With surveys showing that voters trust Democrats significantly more than Republicans to solve problems in the health-care system, the order is, in part, a strategy by the White House to portray Trump as an ally of consumers for his reelection campaign,” Amy and Josh write
“My understanding is they are trying to figure out what is going to have high splash value,” said Dan Mendelson, founder of Avalere Health, a Washington-based consulting firm
OOF: A baby girl believed to be the world’s tiniest surviving micro-preemie has gone home as a healthy infant, weighing five pounds. Yesterday a San Diego hospital revealed the girl’s birth, saying she weighed just 8.6 ounces when she was born in December at 23 weeks and three days into her mother’s 40-week pregnancy, the Associated Press reports . The father was told he’d have about an hour with his daughter before she died
“But that hour turned into two hours, which turned into a day, which turned into a week,” the mother said in a video released by Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women & Newborns
“Her ranking as the world’s smallest baby ever to survive is according to the Tiniest Baby Registry maintained by the University of Iowa,” the AP writes. “Dr. Edward Bell, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Iowa, said Saybie had the lowest medically confirmed birth weight submitted to the registry.”
But “we cannot rule out even smaller infants who have not been reported to the Registry,” he said in an email to AP
Scott Lloyd, director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement at the Department of Health and Human Services, testifies during a House Judiciary Committee hearing. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
OUCH: Scott Lloyd, leader of the Department of Health and Human Services refugee office, will leave the Trump administration next week, Politico’s Dan Diamond reports . Over his two-year tenue, Lloyd‘s actions had prompted lawsuits and congressional inquiries
“Lloyd ran the refugee office for most of 2017 and 2018 as HHS was taking custody of thousands of migrant children separated from their families under the administration’s zero-tolerance border enforcement policy,” Dan writes. “The administration struggled to reunite those families after a federal court order, and House Democrats this year have probed Lloyd’s role in the separations and whether his testimony before Congress was truthful.”
— A few more good reads from The Post and beyond:
HEALTH ON THE HILL MEDICAL MISSIVES Health What is rat lungworm disease? Five people in Hawaii recently found out. Hawaii’s Department of Health has announced new cases of rat lungworm, a parasitic worm that has infected five people statewide this year. Lindsey Bever OPIOID OPTICS She shared heroin with a friend who fatally overdosed. She’ll now spend 21 years in prison. “I should be dead as well,” Emma Semler sobbed in court. “I don’t know why I’m still here and not Jenny.” Antonia Farzan REPRODUCTIVE WARS National Louisiana passed an abortion ban. Its Democratic governor plans to defy his party and sign it. The Louisiana bill, which bans abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, is the first of the drumbeat of bans this year to receive the imprimatur of prominent local Democrats. Jacqueline Kantor and Reis Thebault SUGAR RUSH Subscriber sign in We noticed you’re blocking ads. Keep supporting great journalism by turning off your ad blocker. Or purchase a subscription for unlimited access to real news you can count on. Try 1 month for $1 Unblock ads Questions about why you are seeing this? Contact us