NEWS | August 21, 2014

California isn't measuring up in the fight against cancer

ACS announces cancer 'report card' at the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center


In a media briefing at the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center on August 21, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) released How Do You Measure Up?, an annual report that scores each state on how they are doing in the fight against cancer.

UC Davis' Elisa Tong (left) , Elizabeth David (right) and Lori Bremner from ACS CAN give a media briefing on ACS CAN's 2014 cancer progress report. UC Davis' Elisa Tong (left) , Elizabeth David (right) and Lori Bremner from ACS CAN give a media briefing on ACS CAN's 2014 cancer progress report.

The 2014 report shows California is ahead of other states in breast and cervical cancer screening programs, protecting young people from tanning devices and broadening Medicare eligibility. The Golden State, however, is falling far behind in smoking-related policies, which are crucial to preventing deaths from certain cancers.

“Tobacco-related cancers continue to lead to the vast majority of cancer deaths we see in the state,” said Elizabeth David, thoracic and cancer surgeon at UC Davis. “We know that 85 percent of lung cancers are caused by cigarette smoking. This year, about 16,000 people in California will be diagnosed with lung cancer and about 35 Californians will die each day from the disease.”

Smoking also increases the risk of many other cancers such as head and neck, esophageal, pancreatic, uterine, cervical, ovarian, kidney, bladder, stomach, colorectal and leukemias, she said.

Lori Bremner, board member with the ACS CAN and 37-year leukemia survivor, said California is failing in comprehensive tobacco control, which should include increasing the price of all tobacco products, implementing comprehensive smoke-free policies and fully funding and sustaining state-wide tobacco-prevention cessation programs.

“Evidence clearly shows that raising tobacco prices through taxes encourages users to quit or cut down and, most importantly, it prevents kids from ever starting,” Bremner said. “California is woefully underfunded in tobacco-prevention programs compared to what’s recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”

Elisa Tong, an associate professor of internal medicine who conducts research on tobacco control, said California has more than 4 million smokers, which cost the state $9 billion a year in health-care expenses.

“In Sacramento, we actually have the highest smoking prevalence rate among California’s urban areas,” said Tong, who said smoke-free policies are crucial for cancer prevention and to help people quit smoking.

“We can address tobacco-cessation at a patient level, but with comprehensive smoke-free policies, we can address the whole environment the patient lives in,” she added.

In 2014, it is estimated that more than 1.6 million people in the United States will be diagnosed with cancer and more than 580,000 people will die from the disease. In California this year, an estimated 155,920 will be diagnosed with cancer and a predicted 153 people will perish daily from the disease.

To view the complete How Do You Measure Up? report, visit

For more information about the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center, visit