|Interview With Dr. LaSalle Legal-Chair Of The President's Cancer Panel|
Schmalfeldt: Welcome back to NIH Research Radio, and our guest today is Dr. LaSalle Lefall. He's the Charles R. Drew Professor of Surgery at Howard University College of Medicine in Washington, DC; past Chair of the Board at the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation-now known as Susan G. Komen for the Cure; a surgeon, oncologist, medical educator and leader in professional and civic organizations. And in May 2002, he was appointed by President George W. Bush as a member and Chair of the President's Cancer Panel. He was recently reappointed for a three year term ending in February 2010. Welcome to NIH Research Radio, sir.
Lefall: I'm pleased to be here.
Schmalfeldt: And quite a prestigious appointment, it sounds like. The President's Cancer Panel. You sit with Dr. Margaret Kripke and Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong. Why don't you tell us a little bit about the function of the President's Cancer Panel?
Lefall: Well, the role of the President's Cancer Panel is to monitor the development and execution of the National Cancer Program and to report directly to the President if we see any obstacles. Certainly, we would report it if we see any opportunities that are not being realized. We also want to really see if there are any obstacles to be sure that the National Cancer Program can be carried out to successful completion.
Schmalfeldt: Now, there's going to be a report issued here, "Promoting Healthy Lifestyles: Policy, Program and Personal Recommendations for Reducing Cancer Risk". Over the last year, you've looked at the links between physical activity, obesity, nutrition, tobacco use and environmental tobacco smoke exposure and cancer risk. And you've heard from over 40 experts from a variety of disciplines and organizations. Can you give us a little sneak peek at what this report is going to have to say?
Lefall: Yes. One thing the report wants to emphasize is prevention. We hear so much about diagnosis and treatment, and they are important also. But we want to emphasize prevention. If you eat in a healthy manner, if you avoid tobacco in any form, what you can do to improve your health and decrease the risk for developing cancer.
Schmalfeldt: And it makes sense. If you don't get cancer, you don't have to fight it.
Lefall: That is correct. And prevention is very important.
Schmalfeldt: That's going to be the main focus of the report?
Lefall: The main focus is going to emphasize that. And what we can do, what the government can do. For example, if we could have the Food and Drug Administration have the ability to regulate tobacco and what is going on with tobacco sales. If we could increase the tax on tobacco so we have more money to fight cancer. If we can emphasize the fact that eating in a healthy manner-being sure that healthy foods are available in all areas of our country, not just in certain areas and in affluent areas, but in low income areas so that everyone can get the benefit of eating a healthy diet. Avoiding obesity-very important. Increasing physical activity. All of these things, we think, will help decrease cancer.
Schmalfeldt: I saw a report not long ago. It seems like our lifestyles have contributed to the cancer rates in our country. Will this report try to modify some of those risks we take on a daily basis?
Lefall: Well, you certainly want to let people know-something we've talked about over and over again-to emphasize the risk of tobacco, smoked or smokeless tobacco and the harm that it can cause. Eating in a healthy manner. Decreasing obesity, because with obesity there's an increased risk of the development of the common cancers: colorectal cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer. And we want to avoid that.
Schmalfeldt: Now you're working in collaboration with the National Cancer Institute here at the National Institutes of Health. What's your relationship with the NCI?
Lefall: Well, the President's Cancer Panel works closely with the National Cancer Institute. But we do not report to the National Cancer Institute. So that lets us have that "hands off" relationship, so we can look at it in a dispassionate way, and if we see something that isn't going quite right, we can report directly to the President. And that's important. We report directly to the President of the United States but work closely with the National Cancer Institute for the National Cancer Program.
Schmalfeldt: All right, now this report again is called "Promoting Healthy Lifestyles: Policy, Program and Personal Recommendations for Reducing Cancer Risk." And that represents the previous year's investigation. What's coming up next?
Lefall: Next year, we're going to talk about strategies to see if we can maximize the nation's investment in cancer. We spend a lot of money in cancer, cancer research with what we can do to decrease the risk of cancer, the incidence of cancer, to decrease mortality. So we want to find out what we can do to actually increase the return we're going to get on the money that we are spending on the fight against cancer.
Schmalfeldt: We're certainly thrilled to have you here with us today on NIH Research Radio. And as long as we've got you here, is there anything else you'd like our listeners to know?
Lefall: I'd just like to emphasize that if you prevent cancer, then you don't have to treat it. And there are things we can do. One-third of all human cancer, we believe, is caused by tobacco and tobacco products, one-third is related to nutritional factors and diet.
Schmalfeldt: Thank you so much, Dr. LaSalle Lefall. He's Chair of the President's Cancer Panel, joining us here today on NIH Research Radio.
Lefall: Thank you very much.