By Joel Helmke
I recently made a personal commitment of my time and resources to help eliminate the incredible burden that cancer places on families and communities just like yours and mine. Cancer is not someone else’s problem, it is everyone’s problem. It is an equal opportunity disease, affecting young and old, rich and poor, and peoples of all ethnicities. Let me tell you how you can join me and make a significant difference right here in Southern California.
Cancer is the second-leading cause of death in the US after heart disease. This year alone, more than 1.7 million Americans will be diagnosed with cancer, and more than 609,000 will die from the disease. While those numbers are grim, the good news is that half of cancer deaths are preventable by making healthy lifestyle choices, like- eating a healthier diet, being active and watching your weight, avoiding tobacco use, and getting recommended screenings. Also, people facing cancer have a place to turn for information and support – the American Cancer Society, a partner in the fight against cancer since 1913.
That’s why this year I am chairing the American Cancer Society’s CEOs Against Cancer Southern California Chapter. Members and I, all likeminded business professionals, are doing our part to spread cancer awareness and, most importantly, create hope for those affected by this disease.
In Southern California our chapter has adopted the American Cancer Society’s HPV Cancer Free campaign as our mission priority to support in 2018-2019. On Wednesday, June 6, 2018, the organization launched a nationwide public health campaign to eliminate vaccine-preventable HPV cancers, which includes cervical, throat and anal cancers.
The story of polio provides a glimpse of the potential impact of widespread HPV vaccination. At its peak in the 1950’s polio took the lives of 3,145 Americans. This scourge continued to afflict our nation until the polio vaccine was developed by Dr. Jonas Salk and mass immunization campaigns swept the nation in the late 1950’s. Polio cases plummeted from a peak of 58,000 cases to 161 cases in 1961.
It is estimated that over 32,00 Americans will develop an HPV related cancer this year and 6,000 will die from the condition. Most of these cancers are preventable through HPV vaccination, but vaccination rates in the US currently hover at 60% for girls and 50% for boys. For comparison, Australia has screening rates approaching 90% for girls and are on the verge of eliminating cervical cancer as a health concern in the coming years in their country.