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Cancer Moonshot misses the mark by glossing over prevention, early detection

02 February, 2022

This month, Nevada Cancer Coalition submitted the following opinion to Nevada Current:

Earlier this month, President Biden reignited his Cancer Moonshot initiative with a laudable goal of reducing cancer deaths by at least 50% over the next quarter century. The effort is a continuation of the 2016 initiative that focused on groundbreaking research and advances in cancer treatment. Since that launch, the National Cancer Institute reports having invested more than $1 billion in Moonshot programs and research projects.

Nevada Cancer Coalition and many of our public health and clinical partners across the state participated in some of those early Cancer Moonshot meetings and set priorities to look at how we as a unified force could improve the treatment of cancer and reduce deaths in our state. It was not unlike the planning we’d done just months prior to develop the state’s five-year cancer plan. Except, rather than focus on the needs of Nevada, efforts in the Moonshot work focused on the priorities set forth from a national level.

There have been fantastic developments in treatment and research as a result of the first iteration of the Cancer Moonshot, including improvements in immunotherapies that use a person’s own immune system to fight cancer cells. There was even a part of the initiative focused on improving early detection rates and reducing smoking among those diagnosed with cancer. 

Since 2016, the rates of new cancer cases and deaths in Nevada have declined. That’s great news. But while Nevada has some of the lowest cancer incidence rates among the 50 states, ranking 49th, its rate of cancer deaths is nestled firmly in the middle, ranking 27th.  The American Cancer Society estimates 16,390 Nevadans will be diagnosed with cancer this year, and more than one third of those diagnosed—5,730 Nevadans—will die of the disease. 

Groundbreaking research and aspirational national agendas aside, we have a lot more work to do in Nevada when it comes to reducing cancer deaths. But more than that, and what this new Cancer Moonshot largely misses—during National Cancer Prevention Month no less—is that we can make a greater difference in more people’s lives with a focus and investment in cancer prevention and overall public health. Why spend billions to cure a disease when the same amount of money could not only prevent that disease but many others, including heart disease, the nation’s other top killer?

Read our full commentary on the Nevada Current.

Image: Joe Biden, courtesy the White House, Creative Commons / Wikimedia

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