National Cancer Prevention Day is celebrated annually on February 4. This year, HPV and Anal Cancer Foundation co-founder Justine Almada was invited to speak on Capitol Hill as part of the day’s proceedings.
National Cancer Prevention Day is a resolution introduced by Representative Steve Israel highlighting the efforts of Less Cancer, a campaign that strives to keep prevention at the fore of the cancer conversation. This year the day was led by Margaret Cuomo, co-founder of Less Cancer and longtime staunch cancer prevention advocate. Other esteemed speakers included Dr. John Groopman, Congressman Charlie Dent, Dr. Lorenzo Cohen, and fellow leaders in the fields of cancer research and advocacy.
As a part of this day and thanks to the advocacy of Less Cancer, the day preceding National Cancer Prevention Day was the inaugural meeting of the first bipartisan Cancer Prevention Caucus, a monumental achievement and a huge step in the fight to eradicate cancer.
HPVACF at National Cancer Prevention Day
Justine began her talk with words of praise bestowed by President Eisenhower on the father of the modern polio vaccine, Jonas Salk, as a reminder of the monumental shift in global public health engendered by that single invention. She presented key and devastating facts about HPV to the members of congress and other convened guests, including informing them that the virus is the cause of 5% of the world’s cancers, affects 79 million Americans, and causes 31,500 new cases of cancer in the United States alone each year. Read more about HPV and the cancers it causes.
Justine reminded those present that, thankfully, we have a vaccine that can protect Americans against multiple cancer-causing strains of HPV, and that this vaccine is already approved and recommended by the CDC and ACIP for all children age 11-12. However, despite the implications of full and complete protection from this carcinogen, vaccination rates in the US are woefully low – just 40% for girls and 22% for boys.
Justine ended her testimony with a request to those gathered to speak with their doctors about ensuring that the young people in their lives receive the full series of vaccinations to reduce their chances of developing a devastating cancer. Several of the conference attendees were young people themselves, and she urged them to do what they could to take responsibility for their health. She recounted her own mother’s experience with anal cancer at the young age of 51, an experience that proved so frustrating for her family that she was driven to found the Anal Cancer Foundation with her siblings to ensure that HPV and associated cancers become a thing of the past. She called on those gathered to take the first step by telling at least three people in their community about the lifesaving potential of the HPV vaccine.
Thank you so much to Margaret Cuomo, Bill Couzens, Tom Sherman, and all other participants of National Cancer Prevention day for allowing our voice, and the voice of HPV-associated cancer thrivers everywhere, to be heard on this crucially important day. We hope that the impact of your efforts as well as our collective endeavors carries forth far into the future.