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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

New Study Says Lifestyle Matters Most in Cancer Risk

Aired August 22, 2003 - 20:44   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: When it comes to the risks of getting cancer, the ball might be in your court. A medical study that followed people for 25 years shows that your behavior and lifestyle choices matter the most. The study indicates that is why different ethnic groups get different kinds of cancer.
Joining me from Los Angeles this evening is Dr. Dennis Deapen of the USC School of Medicine. He is also the lead author of the cancer study. Dr. Deapen, good evening. Nice to see you. And thanks for joining me.

DR. DENNIS DEAPEN, CANCER STUDY'S LEAD AUTHOR: Good evening.

O'BRIEN: The study found huge differences among the various ethnic groups for all types of cancers. For example, African-American men have three times the number of cases of overall cancer than other groups. To what -- and you look at the graph here, you see it's way ahead of the other groups. To what do researchers attribute those numbers?

DEAPEN: Well, we do find that African-American males have the highest rate of all cancers combined in Los Angeles County. And the answers to those questions can actually be found in examining the patterns of cancer in individual cancer sites that are also included in this report. And what you see there is, of that 25 cancer sites that are described in the report, for eight of them, African-American males have the highest rates. And that is the reason that the -- all cancer rates are the highest for this population.

O'BRIEN: Yes, but are you saying that the reason that African- American men are off the charts in cancers overall is because of the environment or because of genetics, black men are just more genetically predisposed to getting cancer? Or is there another reason?

DEAPEN: For the most part, probably another reason. For six of those eight cancers for which the African-American males have the highest rates, those six are known to be associated with tobacco use. And we know in California that African-American males have the highest rate of tobacco use among Californians.

O'BRIEN: So when you look at the study, then, is there some good news to take from it? For example, essentially your health and your risk for cancer is in your own hands?

DEAPEN: Well, it's no surprise to most of us that tobacco is associated with many types of cancer. And to the extent that tobacco use is declining -- and the good news is, certainly, in California, tobacco use is declining -- that that will bring down cancer rates. We see among all ethnic groups, among men, the decline of lung cancer over the last several years. And that's directly attributable to the decline in smoking that occurred a number of years ago.

O'BRIEN: What about the cancers for which there is considered to be a strong genetic link or a strong hormonal link?

DEAPEN: Well, certainly, breast cancer, I would suggest, is the best-studied cancer among women. And there is evidence, of course, for genetic causes of that cancer. But in general, that accounts for a relatively small proportion of breast cancers. Hormones, in fact, are directly related to breast cancer risk, but even those hormones are subject to some of our lifestyle changes and decisions. To the extent that we eat and, unfortunately, to the extent that we overeat and become obese, that is a strong reason for increasing breast cancer risk in California, along with a sedentary lifestyle.

O'BRIEN: We only have a few seconds left. The study was in Los Angeles, which has a huge and diverse population. Can you extrapolate this data to other cities?

DEAPEN: I would argue that our population in Los Angeles, in spite of its diversity, is, in fact, similar to the rest of California and the rest of the country. The cause of cancer, the patterns of cancer that we see here, are likely to be typical of the rest of the United States.

O'BRIEN: Dr. Dennis Deapen, nice to see you. Thank you for joining us.

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