How MD Anderson’s Moon Shots Program is working to end cancer through prevention

You’ve probably heard about MD Anderson’s
Moon Shots Program. But what is it?

We asked Ernest Hawk, M.D., co-director of the Cancer Prevention and Control Platform and
co-leader of the Colorectal Cancer Moon Shot, to tell us about
the program and how prevention plays a role.

Here’s what he told us.

What is MD Anderson’s Moon Shots Program?

Our Moon Shots Program is about accelerating the translation of
clinical and basic science discoveries into medical practice. This
helps us improve patient care and outcomes, from improved delivery of
prevention and screening tests, to more tailored treatments and cancer
survivorship services.

We also want to improve community health. We’re working on
influencing positive changes in public policy, education and delivery
of community-based health care.

How is MD Anderson’s Moon Shots
Program different from the National Cancer Moonshot?

MD Anderson launched our Moon Shots
Program in Sept. 2012. The National Cancer Moonshot, which was
announced in Jan. 2016, has a similar goal: to dramatically accelerate
efforts to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer. However, the national
effort is pursuing this goal by building and enhancing a national
infrastructure and clinical and research networks to drive research
and improve cancer care, as well as patient outcomes.

What are the benefits of working to prevent cancer?

Prevention offers the most cost-effective, long-term strategy to
address the cancer burden. We know that at least 30-50% of all cancer
deaths in the U.S. can be avoided through lifestyle changes that
individuals and communities can make today. These include maintaining
a balanced diet, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight,
avoiding tobacco, practicing sun safety, getting the HPV vaccine as
well as regular cancer screening exams.

While treatment will always be needed, prevention saves the
physical, emotional and even financial pain that so often accompanies
a cancer diagnosis.

What are some of the things the Moon Shots Program is doing to
help prevent cancer?

We’re working on policy, education, and community-based clinical
services – and at all levels – institutional, community, state and
national – to address cancer risk factors that are based on lifestyle choices.

Here are a few examples:

  • Tobacco-free at UT: We’ve led efforts to establish
    or strengthen tobacco-free policies at all University of Texas
    campuses. In 2017, UT System will be able to announce that all 14 of
    its academic and health science centers will have implemented
    tobacco-free polices. In addition, we’re advancing prevention
    education and tobacco cessation services for students, patients and
    employees across the UT campuses.
  • Keeping our kids healthy: At the state level, we
    have worked closely with the CATCH Global Foundation to expand and
    implement its evidence-based obesity prevention program in schools
    throughout Texas, reaching thousands of elementary school children.
    We’ve also developed and disseminated new content to promote sun
    safety as part of the CATCH program.
  • Helping Texas fight skin cancer: Leaders from our
    Cancer Prevention and Control Platform and the Melanoma Moon Shot  served as resource
    witnesses for legislation banning the use of tanning beds to protect
    minors from skin cancer. When this legislation was ultimately
    passed, Texas became the fifth state in the nation to pass such a

What can people do to reduce their risk of cancer?

Here are some key things you can do to lower your chances of
developing cancer:

  • Know your family history, discuss it with your doctor and
    share it with family members
  • Eliminate tobacco use and
    limit alcohol consumption
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Maintain a healthy diet
  • Be physically active
  • Reduce exposure to the sun and avoid tanning beds
  • Get
    regular cancer screening exams
  • Use proven preventive
    medicines and vaccines, including the HPV vaccine

Taking these actions will not only reduce your risk of cancer, but
also reduce your risk for many other chronic diseases, such as
cardiovascular disease and diabetes, and promote better health.

Anything else you want patients to know?

Approximately 30-50% of cancer deaths are preventable through
healthy lifestyles and early detection. Take action today. Share
prevention tips with your friends and family.

Learn more about MD Anderson’s Moon
Shots Program and its prevention efforts at the myCancerConnection Cancer Survivorship
on Friday, Nov. 11 and Saturday, Nov. 12.