Preventing cancer one step at a time
February is National Cancer Prevention Month, and usually we’d use this space to share the little list of reminders of what you can do personally to prevent cancer. You know, things like wearing sunscreen, avoiding tobacco, and getting plenty of activity and healthy foods.
This year, however, we’re going to call up the prevention section of the 2021-2025 Nevada Cancer Plan and some of the community-level activities we—us, you, your friends and colleagues—can work together on to promote cancer preventive behaviors on a larger scale.
The pandemic has had a negative impact on getting adolescents vaccinated for HPV. Between isolating and social distancing, students not being in schools, and attentions focused elsewhere, fewer teens ages 13-17 got their HPV vaccinations.
All is not lost, however. The data we’re looking at is from 2020, so hopefully we’ve already begun to turn things around and our next year’s data could reflect that. However, we can also get back to key messages, such as that staying up-to-date with routine vaccinations including for HPV is important for one’s health now and long into the future. After all, the HPV vaccination is cancer prevention.
Get more information on the HPV vaccine and effective messaging from our partners at Immunize Nevada.
Smoking and vaping
We’ve seen better progress on smoking and vaping, based on data collected in 2020. COVID-19 has had an awful impact on our communities, but it has also given some people the extra boost they need to quit smoking. Let’s keep that going! Refer friends, patients, and clients to Nevada’s Tobacco Quitline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW, and encourage policymakers to expand access to cessation resources and programs, and to remove exemptions from Nevada's Clean Indoor Air Act.
We’ve yet to get fresh data on youth vaping, but are working hard on prevention campaigns and on educating adults who can help influence kids to ditch the e-cigs. We can all be positive influences in this arena by educating ourselves about vaping and advocating for policies to keep vaping devices out of the hands (and mouths) of our teens and young adults. Get more information at LetsTalkVaping.com or AttractingAddictionNV.com. (Teens can call the Quitline too!)
We outlined some exciting opportunities to support reducing obesity in the cancer plan, but they can be a challenge for some of our busy partners. We encourage you to take the time, as diverse voices in these areas can help sway policymakers.
So what are the activities? Talk to your community leaders and encourage them to create community gardens and improve access to healthy foods (e.g., eliminate food deserts). You can also support built environments that promote physical activity, such as creating more bike lanes or shared roadways and improving walking paths or trail systems. And you can advocate for physical education and activity in grade schools.
Our state’s Nevada Radon Education Program has been doing a great job of getting people to test their homes for the gas. But we can do more. Encourage everyone you know to test their homes. You can also help the program to educate policymakers about the importance of testing so we can require radon testing in all real estate transactions.
Preventing skin cancer has been our thing for a number of years with our Sun Smart Nevada and Sun Smart Schools programs. If this is your arena, we’d love for you to help out with those programs, either getting them into schools, conducting presentations, or supporting implementation of sun smart policies. You can also encourage people to improve access to shade, achieved by planting shade trees and adding shade sails or other structural elements.
We agree. There’s so much to do in the area of cancer prevention that it can seem overwhelming. But just as you’d conquer anything else, it’s just one step at a time. We hope you’ll join us in taking a step or two. To get more involved consider joining our Cancer Prevention Task Force.