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Study Seeks to Redefine Cancer; Local Expert Weary

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ST. LOUIS (KMOX) - A group of cancer experts say we should reassess the ways we label and treat the disease but a local cancer prevention specialist is skeptical.

In a study titled “Overdiagnosis and Overtreatment of Cancer,” three researchers argue “policies that prevent or reduce the chance of overdiagnosis and avoid overtreatment are needed.”

The researchers argue that not only does the definition of cancer need to change, but in some cases, the word should be dropped from many common diagnoses, especially for some forms of breast cancer.

“Use of the term ‘cancer’ should be reserved for describing lesions with a reasonable likelihood of lethal progression if left untreated,” the researchers write.

Dr. Graham Colditz, a cancer prevention specialist at Siteman Cancer Center, isn’t so sure a change in semantics will accomplish much.

“I myself think that just changing the name isn’t going to change either the clinical practice or how women in the case of DCIS or men in the case of prostate disease are really going to truly respond to having one of these lesions detected,” he said, referring to non-lethal forms of cancer.

What would be better, says Colditz, is more emphasis on prevention, including watching your weight, getting regular exercise, eating a healthy diet, avoiding excess alcohol, and not smoking.

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