Scripps doctor details cancer prevention methods in lecture


About 1.7 million people are diagnosed with cancer each year, according to the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR). One North County doctor is aiming to educate people so they’re less likely to develop the disease.

In a lecture July 20 at the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center in La Jolla, Dr. Laura Goetz, of Scripps Health, suggested healthy diets, limiting alcohol intake, exercising and limiting sun expose as methods to reduce a person’s likelihood of being diagnosed with cancer.

Goetz, who lives in Solana Beach, cares for patients with various cancers, including breast, colorectal, melanoma and other soft tissue cancers. Fifty-percent of cancer cases are in the breast, prostate, lung and rectum, the doctor said. Additionally, one in two men will develop cancer, compared to one in three women. The AACR expects the number of annual cancer cases to increase to 2.3 million by 2030. The organization also expects the death rate to increase by nearly 350,000 in the next 12 years, due to the population aging more successfully and bodies, therefore, being more susceptible to getting cancer. However, in 2014, experts saw a 25 percent reduction in the death rate since 1991.

While some risk factors, like age and genetics, can’t be changed to reduce the chances of cancer, people can take measures to limit their prospects of getting cancer, said Goetz, who is board-certified as a general surgeon and preventative medicine physician.

Thirty-five percent of people who are diagnosed with cancer are smokers. However, studies have shown that more non-smokers nowadays are also being diagnosed with cancer, the doctor said. She added that obesity accounts for about 25 percent of cases, and inactivity, occupation and alcohol consumption can also increase someone’s chances. Just one or two exercise sessions per week, of moderate-intensity, is sufficient to reduce cancer mortality risks, according to the AACR.

Additional risk factors include chronic inflammation, hormones (such as some birth control methods), immunosuppression, radiation, sunlight and infectious agents.

The doctor, who has a cancer prevention practice at Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine in La Jolla where she helps people with personalized approaches to prevention, considers the immune system as the first line of defense against cancer. Lifestyle changes, vaccinations and certain medications/operations are all good prevention methods, Goetz said.

Cancer screenings are recommended to detect cancer in early stages or prevent cancer from developing. Currently, only lung, prostate, colon, breast and cervical cancers have recommended screening guidelines.

Additionally, Goetz recommends routine screenings.

“Just getting screened once doesn’t mean you’re screened for life,” the doctor advised.

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