Prevention in Action: Protecting access to breast cancer screening, D.C. ban on tobacco flavors and more

Published on August 6, 2021

Prevention in Action | Advocacy news for cancer prevention & early detection

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Prevent Cancer Foundation applauds introduction of bill to protect access to breast cancer screening 

On July 21, Representatives Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla) and Fred Upton (R-Mich.) introduced the Protecting Access to Lifesaving Screenings (PALS) Act of 2021, a bill to preserve coverage for routine breast cancer screening for women in their 40s. Companion legislation has also been introduced in the Senate by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn). If passed, the PALS Act would protect access to mammograms for women ages 40-49. 

Mammograms and other types of breast cancer screening are routine lifesaving services, but the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) currently gives breast cancer screening a “C” recommendation for this demographic (They give a “B” recommendation for biennial breast cancer screening for women ages 50-74). 

Under current law, women ages 40-49 could lose access to breast screening coverage with no copay when the current version of the PALS Act, passed in 2015, expires on January 1, 2023. Medical experts agree that mammograms save lives, which makes it particularly troubling that millions of women could be at risk of losing access to this critical cancer screening.

According to the American Cancer Society, more than 45,000 women ages 40-49 were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2019. About 22 million women between 40 and 49 would be at risk of losing coverage for lifesaving mammograms.

The Prevent Cancer Foundation supports the PALS Act–protecting access to breast cancer screening is vital in the fight against breast cancer. If diagnosed early and treated before it spreads, five-year survival rate for breast cancer is 99%. 

Full text of the PALS Act is available here. Learn more about breast cancer risk, symptoms and prevention.  

D.C. bans sale of menthol cigarettes and flavored tobacco 

The District of Columbia recently signed a bill into law banning the sale of flavored tobacco products–including flavored e-cigarettes, menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars. It also bars the sale and distribution of electronic smoking devices within a quarter-mile of a middle school or high school. While the D.C. bill bans the sale of the products in the District, it does not criminalize an individual’s smoking of a cigarette or other flavored tobacco product. 

D.C.’s Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs–not the police–will enforce the new law, and enforcement will only be on retailers, not individual consumers. The Council adopted an amendment to make enforcement actions abundantly clear.

As previously reported, the Biden administration recently proposed to prohibit flavored tobacco products, including menthol, nationwide. Every year, approximately 540,000 people will die prematurely from tobacco-related cancers, heart disease, lung disease and stroke. Unless smoking rates decline, 5.6 million kids under 18 today will ultimately die from smoking. All tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, pose risks to health and our policies should adhere to science-based public health protections.

Want to quit? People who quit smoking have a higher risk of cancer than people who never smoked, but a lower risk of lung cancer than if they had continued to smoke. Quitting smoking at any age can have a huge impact on your overall cancer risk. The CDC has free resources for support in quitting, including free quit coaching, a free quit plan, free educational materials and referrals to local resources. Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669).

Learn more about how to reduce your risk of lung cancer.

HHS Secretary renews COVID-19 Public Health Emergency

HHSOn July 19, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra renewed the public health emergency declaration for the COVID-19 pandemic for an additional 90 days. This is the fifth renewal of the public health emergency since it was first declared by HHS in January 2020. The renewal will expire on October 18, 2021, but may be extended again, if necessary. The declaration provides the administration with the authority to help the U.S. respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, including expanding access to telehealth services and increasing Medicaid assistance. 

The Prevent Cancer Foundation understands the pandemic is ongoing and it can be difficult to prioritize preventive care. COVID-19 has disrupted many elements of our lives, including routine cancer screenings. As our research has shown, people are continuing to postpone, cancel and miss their routine cancer screenings for fear of being exposed to the coronavirus. While the concern is understandable, missing appointments can increase your risk for other serious health issues, including preventable cancers.

Talk to your doctor. Visit Back on the Books to learn more about what safety precautions are in place, what questions to ask your doctor, and even what screenings you should be scheduling based on your age. It’s time to take charge of your health and get your routine screenings back on the books today.

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