Last fall, researchers announced that cancer rates in the U.S. are dropping by an average of 2.1 percent annually, a rate nearly double that of decreases that first began appearing in 1993.

“That drop translates into more than 10,000 fewer cancer deaths per year,” says LIUNA General Secretary Treasurer, New England Regional Manager and LHSFNA Labor Co-Chairman Armand E. Sabitoni. “This is remarkable progress, but the most important thing for Laborers and our signatory employers is the way it was accomplished.”

It was not from miracle cures but rather, from more mundane improvements in prevention, early detection and treatment, especially in the more common, lethal cancers – lung, colorectal, breast and prostate.

Decades of efforts to get Americans and their health care providers to pay more attention to prevention and early detection are beginning to change patient behavior. Fewer Americans are smoking and more are getting mammograms, colonoscopies and other screening tests.

Nevertheless, cancer remains the second leading cause of death after heart disease, with almost 550,000 American deaths expected this year.

Because so much of the success in cancer prevention and treatment is attributable to lifestyle improvements and early detection, cancer experts are concerned about the rising number of Americans without health insurance. Those without insurance are less likely to see a physician before a condition becomes serious and possibly life-threatening.

“However,” Sabitoni points out, “many LIUNA health and welfare funds include benefits for routine exams and preventive services. Laborers should contact their fund office for specific information. Get the screenings and tests you need to protect yourself against the dangers of cancer and other serious diseases.”

The LHSFNA publishes a health alert with similar information, Medical Screenings and Health Exam Recommendations.

[Steve Clark]