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Cancer Prevention: First on the List

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My appeal to one and all is that we make cancer prevention the No. 1 priority for ourselves, our communities and our nation. Cancer does not discriminate; it has no particular ideology or political party.

According to a report by the American Cancer Society (ACS), "In 2013, about 580,350 Americans are expected to die of cancer, almost 1,600 people per day. Cancer is the second most common cause of death in the United States, exceeded only by heart disease." The World Health Organization reports that cancer is a leading cause of death worldwide, accounting for 7.6 million deaths.

While I am the founder of Less Cancer, I am not a doctor or a scientist. However, I do know cancer firsthand. I unfortunately have had to speak the unthinkable final "goodbyes" to my mother, sister, brother, brother-in-law and several friends.

One young friend, Hugh Wiley, was eulogized at his funeral by Less Cancer board member Stormy Stokes Hood as smelling like "sunshine and dirt." A beautiful, active first grader, Hugh died of lymphoma. This March 4, Hugh would have been 10 years old.

According to the American Childhood Cancer Organization (ACCO), each year in the United States, approximately 13,400 children between birth and age 19 are diagnosed with cancer. Using those numbers, since Hugh's death in 2010, 40,200 more children have been diagnosed with cancer since our young friend died.

The National Cancer Institute reports that cancer is the leading cause of death by disease among U.S. children one to 14 years of age.

Do we repeat the last 100 years of treating the casualties of cancer in the battlefield, or do we choose to end the causes of history's most devastating "war"?

Currently, we have more than 80,000 chemicals in the marketplace with little understanding of their impact on human health or the environment, much less on cancer.

While we have much to work to do on that front, the work has been started. I honor the work and memory of Senator Frank Lautenberg's fight to protect the public from harmful chemicals; his work has been a critical step toward less cancer.

Senator Lautenberg's efforts have not gone unnoticed. Today, we see corporate leadership taking steps toward a world of less cancer, such as those at Johnson & Johnson removing harmful chemicals from their products. We applaud the efforts of these corporations but recognize that there is still much to do.

I am grateful to the pioneers in prevention for paving the way, such as the late Dr. Ronald B. Herberman, a renown scientist and physician and Less Cancer board member who never hesitated to ask the hard questions on the public's behalf.

The National Cancer Institute reports that researchers have estimated that as many as two in three cases of cancer (67 percent) are linked to some type of environmental factor.

The harsh reality is that by 2020, there will be 18.1 million cancer survivors in the United States, 30 percent more than in 2010, and their treatment is projected to cost $207 billion.

Think of the impact $207 billion could have fighting the causes of cancer. What would that do for the increasing incidences of cancer?

I echo Less Cancer board member Dr. Margaret I. Cuomo when I say, "Cancer prevention requires collaboration and teamwork. We can all contribute to a healthier environment, a stronger, more vibrant society, and ultimately, to a world without cancer."

Dr. Cuomo is correct: The effort for cancer prevention will only happen with you.

This blog post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and lesscancer.org, in recognition of both WorldCancer Day and National Cancer Prevention Day (both Feb. 4), and in conjunction with lesscancer.org's panel on cancer in Washington that day. To see all the other posts in the series, click here. For more information about lesscancer.org, click here.