How Cancer and Substance Abuse Prevention Overlap


A new article published in the American Society of Clinical Oncology Educational Book reviewed lifestyle modification strategies to improve primary prevention and risk reduction of cancer.  

The authors highlighted three strategies that would help enhance the primary prevention of cancer, but which also overlap with efforts by substance use prevention specialists and organizations. 

First, several lifestyle factors we identified as critical to preventing cancer, including eliminating or reducing alcohol use, being physically active, and choosing a healthy diet with an emphasis on plant sources. 

The lifestyle factor of eliminating or reducing alcohol use, along with preventing its onset, is clearly an overlapping goal shared between the cancer and substance use prevention fields.  

The other two cancer prevention lifestyle factors of being physically active and eating a healthy diet are protective factors for substance use and should be addressed in substance use prevention programs aimed at positive youth development. 

Second, the authors called for the continued education of the public and health care providers for improving cancer prevention. 

Similarly, substance use prevention is necessarily aimed at educating the public, especially youth, young adults and parents, as well as a wide range of education, youth services, substance abuse, and mental and physical health and health care professionals. 

Third, policy approaches identified to prevent cancer included increasing alcohol taxes, reducing alcohol outlet density, improving clinical screening for alcohol use disorders, and limiting youth exposure to alcohol marketing and advertising.  

All these policy approaches are embraced as key strategies among substance use prevention specialists, organizations and government agencies, not only for alcohol use but to varying degrees for controlling and preventing tobacco, e-cigarette, marijuana and illicit drug consumption and problems in society. 

This brief comparison shows that cancer prevention and substance use prevention have a lot in common, including targeted health behaviors, educational aims and policy strategies.  

So much so that progress in the primary prevention of various types of cancer can also improve substance use prevention outcomes, and vice versa.  

Future efforts should aim to link cancer and substance use prevention goals, strategies and resources to the benefit of both fields and the enhanced protection and improvement of health of youth and adults in America. 

Cancer prevention article abstract: http://ascopubs.org/doi/abs/10.1200/EDBK_200093

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