Cancer prevention in Latin America also serves us here
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With the proposed federal cutbacks in medical research, global health and diplomacy, it falls to other resources to continue critically needed programs and services that must forge ahead rather than fall backward or be abandoned.

We have been encouraging and writing about forming innovative collaborative partnerships to deal more effectively with health issues for some time now, and on March 29 at Miami Dade College, we will be co-chairing with our friend and colleague, Dr. Jorge Gomez, a Concordia-hosted roundtable discussion on cancer prevention, screening and early detection in Latin America.

Gomez, who spent more than two decades in senior scientific and administrative roles at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), including heading its Specialized Programs of Research Excellence (SPORE) program, was also responsible for creating the NCI's first Latin American cancer initiative.

Currently a faculty member and administrator at the University of Arizona's College of Public Health, he is responsible for programs dealing with health disparities and outreach.

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In Miami, we will convene a panel of healthcare experts and officials from academic institutions and government agencies in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Peru, Puerto Rico and Uruguay, as well as experts from the World Health Organization, to discuss reducing cancer in Latin America through preventive measures including implementation of specific cancer control plans appropriate for respective populations.

 

(We also invited representatives of the Mexican government, who declined because of current tensions; we hope those will be resolved soon.)

According to the Pan American Health Organization, there were 1.2 million cancer deaths in Latin America in 2008, with that number projected to increase to 2.1 million by 2030. It is also estimated that about one-third of cancers can be prevented by avoiding certain risk factors, such as smoking.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to the cancer problem. Latin Americas and Americans of Latino or Hispanic heritage are not a genetically homogeneous group and different nations have various challenges related to dealing with cancer prevention and treatment.

But by working together, sharing experiences and exploring solutions, we can learn more about what works or doesn't, and much of that information has implications for serving the growing Latino population in the United States, as well.

Our group will discuss topics such as the economic, social and political challenges facing nations implementing cancer prevention strategies; deciphering the diverse genetic makeup of Latinos; and exploring effective public, private and nonprofit partnerships to achieve cancer reduction throughout Latin America.

We don't expect to be able to prevent all cancers, but we hope that our roundtable will be the beginning of a Pan American effort to work collaboratively to identify common issues and develop specific strategies to prevent or reduce cancer incidence, or find it at an earlier, treatable stage.

This piece was revised on Monday, March 20 at 4:18 p.m.

Nancy G. Brinker is the founder of Susan G. Komen, the world's largest breast cancer charity. She has also served as U.S. ambassador to Hungary, U.S. chief of protocol and as a Goodwill Ambassador for Cancer Control to the U.N.'s World Health Organization. She is now continuing her work in media and consulting and has taken a leave of absence from Komen's board.

Eric T. Rosenthal is an independent journalist who covers issues, controversies and trends in oncology as special correspondent for MedPage Today. He is the founder of the National Cancer Institute's Designated Cancer Centers Public Affairs Network and helped organize a number of national medicine-and-the-media conferences.

Both Brinker and Rosenthal have been co-chairing cancer forums for the Concordia Summit. The opinions expressed belong solely to the authors.


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