A diagnosis of cancer is one of life’s most chilling moments.

Each year, cancer accounts for nearly one out of every four deaths in the U.S. Last year alone, cancer killed over 562,000 Americans, and a million and a half others learned that they have the disease. The cancer forecast for 2010 is similar, and the grim picture extends across the border. By year’s end, the Canadian Cancer Society anticipates 173,800 new cases of cancer and 76,200 cancer deaths.

Yet, advances in treatment, prevention and detection for many kinds of cancer are ongoing, and death rates for the four most common cancers – prostate, breast, lung and colorectal – as well as all cancers combined, continue to decline. More victims are meeting the survival benchmark of five years.

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LIUNA General Secretary-Treasurer and LHSFNA Labor Co-Chairman
Armand E. Sabitoni

At the same time, other cancers are on the rise, possibly the result, American Cancer Society researchers say, of diets that are short on fruit and vegetables, heavy on processed foods and red meat and all washed down with too much alcohol. These habits correlate with increasing incidences and deaths from cancers of the thyroid, pancreas and liver. Of particular concern to Laborers, skin cancer rates are also climbing, and workplace exposures to carcinogens remain a significant risk. In addition, concerns are mounting about the role that environmental exposures play in causing cancer.

“People touched by cancer, those actually fighting the disease as well as their loved ones, friends and colleagues, are forever changed,” says LIUNA General Secretary-Treasurer and LHSFNA Labor Co-Chairman Armand E. Sabitoni.  “Its burden is emotional, physical and far-reaching. Cancer wreaks havoc on the individual, stresses families, strains personal finances and contributes to rising health care costs for everyone. Elimination of allexposures may not be possible, but when precautions are taken and safety measures are in place, risk may be minimized and the number of lives devastated by cancer may be reduced.”

[Janet Lubman Rathner]