Cancer | St. Louis Public Radio

Cancer

An illustration of pollution, 2017
Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

Predominantly black neighborhoods in the St. Louis region where poor people live have a much higher exposure to carcinogenic air pollution than white middle-class neighborhoods, according to a study from Washington University. 

Researchers analyzed the Environmental Protection Agency’s data on risk of cancer from air pollutants, like ozone, among census tracts in the St. Louis metropolitan area. In the journal Environmental Research, scientists reported that the risk was five times higher for census tracts that had mostly black residents and high levels of poverty than for areas with white middle-class residents.

Rates of head and neck melanoma among young people increased by more than 50% from 1995 to 2014, according to new research from St. Louis University.
Maxineira | Flickr

The deadliest form of skin cancer is becoming more common in children and young adults.

Head and neck melanoma cases in young people rose more than 50% in the U.S. and Canada in less than two decades, according to new research from St. Louis University. Melanoma rates have increased the fastest among young white men — a group often overlooked in skin-cancer-prevention campaigns. 

From left, Lauren Vanlandingham and Aurrice Duke-Rollings
Girl Scouts of Eastern Missouri & St. Louis Public Radio

Longtime Girl Scout and St. Louis-area resident Lauren Vanlandingham has earned quite a few badges and other accolades over the years. But the latest honor, announced last week by the Girl Scouts of Eastern Missouri, definitely stands out: She’s been named a 2019 National Gold Award Girl Scout.

Considered to be the organization’s highest honor, it’s a designation reserved for just 10 Girl Scouts each year — young women who have taken action to address the world’s most pressing issues.

Iron County Medical Center in Pilot Knob is at risk of closing. The USDA is opposing its plan to emerge from bankruptcy.
Iron County Medical Center

Across the country, people who live in rural areas are more likely to be diagnosed with late-stage colon cancer than city dwellers, according to a new study published in the Journal of Rural Health.

Patients living in counties far from populated cities and suburbs were 1.23 times more likely to be diagnosed with non-curable, stage 4 colon cancer than people living in urban areas, according to the research. That’s despite rural residents having lower rates of developing the disease.

Treatment outcomes are also worse for rural patients, with various studies finding they have an 8% to 15% greater chance of dying from colon cancer.

Michael Kinch is the author of "The End of the Beginning: Cancer, Immunity, and the Future of a Cure."
Lara Hamdan | St. Louis Public Radio

Cancer in its many forms has plagued humanity for millennia, and it’s still taking a relentless toll in the 21st century. The hope that scientists will eventually find a cure can feel like a long shot. But one Washington University scholar is making the case that cancer researchers are on the cusp of a breakthrough.

In his latest book, “The End of the Beginning: Cancer, Immunity, and the Future of a Cure,” Michael Kinch offers readers a history of cancer research and treatments, as well as a view toward what’s ahead in this rapidly evolving field.

Coldwater Creek in north St. Louis County has been linked to increased cancer risk, thanks to radioactive waste that contaminated the creek bed.
Sarah Fentem | St. Louis Public Radio

A federal agency has confirmed that residents who lived and played near a north St. Louis County stream may face a higher risk of certain types of cancer because of radioactive contamination in the area.

Monsanto's widely used weed killer Roundup on a shelf in Home Depot.
File photo | Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

A federal jury in San Francisco has decided Bayer AG should pay $81 million to a California man who claimed the weedkiller Roundup caused his cancer.

The jury determined Wednesday to award California resident Edwin Hardeman $75 million in punitive damages and $5.9 million in compensatory damages. Hardeman, 70, used Roundup for three decades on his properties in Santa Rosa, California, and blamed the herbicide for causing him to develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer that affects the immune system.

The verdict comes before thousands of lawsuits against Roundup have yet to make it to trial. Bayer bought St. Louis-based Monsanto, Roundup’s manufacturer, last summer.

Monsanto's widely used weed killer Roundup on a shelf in Home Depot.
File photo | Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

A federal jury in San Francisco has unanimously decided that Bayer AG’s weed killer Roundup caused a California resident to develop cancer.

Edwin Hardeman alleged in his suit that using the herbicide over three decades on his properties caused him to develop non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer that affects the immune system. His lawsuit is the first federal court case against Bayer’s Roundup and could predict the outcome of hundreds of cases that the company faces for similar claims. Bayer bought St. Louis-based Monsanto, maker of Roundup, last year.

An estimated 45 percent of girls and 34 percent of boys in Missouri received the HPV vaccination last year, about ten percentage points lower than the national average.
Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

When it comes to vaccinating adolescents, Missouri ranks among the worst in the nation.

The report from the nonprofit United Health Foundation ranks Missouri 48th in the U.S. for overall adolescent vaccinations. Doctors say the pattern may be linked to a more widespread trend of “vaccine hesitancy” among parents in the U.S.

Cancer survivor Jim Nace poses in his Ballwin home.
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Two decades ago, Jim Nace was a national ice cream salesman, on cross-country flights 20 days a month. He was on top of the world.

“I had a great lifestyle, lots of money, vacations; I was very caught up in the world I was in,” he said. “And then I got a sore throat.”

His wife, a dental hygienist, saw something that didn’t look quite right. A visit to the doctor confirmed the worst: It was tonsil cancer. Soon after his diagnosis, his company terminated his job.

More people are surviving cancer each year. But as patients face life after treatment, many find the burden of cancer doesn’t end when remission starts. Cancer can cause depression in patients just as the world expects them to celebrate.

Since being diagnosed with breast cancer in May 2018, Jossalyn Larson (at right) has been open about her treatment journey. He husband, John Larson (at left), is operations manager for St. Louis Public Radio.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

The year 2018 didn’t go down quite like Jossalyn Larson or her family expected. After being diagnosed with breast cancer in May, Larson underwent several months of chemotherapy. And yet through all the change, some things have stayed the same – and she’s found the various aspects of everyday life helpful as she travels a difficult path.

“Just because you have a diagnosis like this, life doesn’t stop,” Larson said on Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air. “So our kids still need us. My job still needs me. Our parents still need us. So life continues on, and the diagnosis is just something that we get to maneuver around now.”

A microscopic view of oral cancer.
Wikimedia Commons

Studies show cancer survivors are twice as likely to die by suicide than the general population. But some cancer survivors are at a greater risk than others, according to research from a St. Louis University doctor.

A study appearing in this month’s journal Cancer has found patients in recovery from pancreatic, head and neck cancers die by suicide at a higher rate than other common cancers. In the case of head and neck cancer, the suicide rate is 63 for every 100,000 people — close to four times that of the general population and two times that of other cancer survivors combined.

The findings emphasize a little-talked about subject: the mental health needs of patients after they finish treatment, said Nosayaba Osazuwa-Peters, an assistant professor of otolaryngology at SLU and lead author of the study.

Dr. Theresa Schwartz, at left, is a breast surgeon with SLUCare and SSM Health Saint Louis University Hospital. Jossalyn Larson, center, is a current breast cancer patient, and Heather Salazar is a cancer survivor and president of Pink Ribbon Girls.
St. Louis Public Radio & Pink Ribbon Girls

After being diagnosed with breast cancer a few months ago, Jossalyn Larson began traveling a path that one in eight U.S. women will find themselves on at some point during their lifetimes. Larson’s own journey currently has her at about the midpoint of her chemotherapy, and she’s been open about its associated challenges and surprises.

“It’s been pretty disruptive,” the Missouri S&T faculty member told host Don Marsh on Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air. “What’s confusing about it is [that] I never know how it’s going to be disruptive. Every chemo infusion provides different side effects, and some of them are cumulative.

“I’m just now starting to get neuropathy in my fingers and my feet. So my fingernails hurt. And so something as simple as taking laundry out of the washer to put it in the dryer is painful for me, and I never would have anticipated that.”

In addition to being a cancer survivor, Kathy McGee (at left) is also now an artist. Her creative growth is the result of her longtime participation in Arts As Healing classes. Vicki Friedman (at right) is the organization’s executive director.
Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio

Kathy McGee had just recently completed her cancer treatments when she visited Arts As Healing for the first time. She wasn’t exactly sure what she was getting into or how to prepare, but her daughter had encouraged her to give this new opportunity a try. So McGee grabbed the adult coloring book she’d been enjoying lately and headed to class.

“I show up with [the] book in hand, and the class had absolutely nothing to do with that – absolutely nothing,” McGee said on St. Louis on the Air. “But I was greeted by Vicki [Friedman], and I was immediately pulled in because of her warm smile, because of the affection that she had for all of us.”

Coldwater Creek in north St. Louis County has been linked to increased cancer risk, thanks to radioactive waste that contaminated the creek bed.
Sarah Fentem | St. Louis Public Radio

When a federal agency linked radioactive waste in Coldwater Creek to certain kinds of cancers, residents of north St. Louis County were pleased that the federal government had finally made a connection.

But the report didn't connect that increased risk of cancer to individual cancer cases. That has many wondering whether the radioactive waste actually caused their disease.

Dr. Lannis Hall, right, looks at scans before meeting with patients at a Siteman Cancer Center satellite site in St. Peters. May 31, 2018
Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

For years, clinical trials were focused in academic medical centers such as the one below oncologist John DiPersio’s office at Siteman Cancer Center, high above the Washington University medical campus in the Central West End. Historically, most participants in clinical trials have been white men.

To help increase diversity in its cancer studies, Siteman bringing the science to people’s neighborhoods, with smaller centers in traditionally underserved areas, far away from the big medical campus. It most recently started clinical trials at its newest location in north St. Louis County, 12 miles north of the Central West End.

Geneticist and lead Cancer Genome Atlas scientist Li Ding
Sarah Fentem | St. Louis Public Radio

Scientists at Washington University in St. Louis reached a new milestone in cancer research this month with the completion of a comprehensive analysis of the molecular underpinnings of the causes of the disease.

The National Institutes of Health funded the PanCancer Atlas project, more than a decade in the making. Biologists from more than two dozen institutions analyzed DNA from 11,000 cancer patients with 33 major types of the disease, including breast and pancreatic cancer.

The analysis is part of a larger NIH initiative called the Cancer Genome Atlas.

The widow of firefighter Marnell Griffin (her back to the camera) comforts a fellow firefighter's widow on Dec. 201, 2017. They, and the woman on the left, lost their husbands to cancer.
Holly Edgell | St. Louis Public Radio

When firefighter Marnell Griffin died in January 2017, it was not due to burns, smoke inhalation or any of the other hazards people associate with his line of work. Griffin, a 22-year veteran of the St. Louis Fire Department, died of colon cancer.

Washington University's Siteman Cancer Center offers patients with certain blood cancers a new gene-altering therapy that uses the immune system to attack cancer cells.
Provided by Washington University in St. Louis

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration last week approved a drug that genetically modifies a patient's immune cells to attack cancer cells. Washington University's Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital is among the first medical centers to offer the treatment, which is aimed at helping those with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and some types of blood cancers. 

Yescarta, manufactured by California-based Kite Pharmaceuticals, is part of a new wave of drugs that use the immune system to fight cancer, also known as immunotherapy.

Dr. Andrea Hagemann (L) and Susan Robben (R) joined St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh to talk about ovarian cancer.
Alex Heuer | St. Louis Public Radio

October marks ovarian cancer awareness month. According to the American Cancer Society, ovarian cancer ranks fifth in cancer deaths among women.

In the United States, each year 22,000 women are diagnosed with the disease and 15,000 die from it.  

On Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh discussed early warning signs of ovarian cancer, resources for those in treatment and ongoing efforts to increase survivorship with two guests:

Monsanto's widely used weed killer Roundup on a shelf in Home Depot.
File photo | Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup, will be added to the list of chemicals California warns are known to cause cancer.

The state’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment has posted a notice on its website that glyphosate will be added to the list on July 7. A California judge denied Monsanto's request to block the state from doing so, but the company has filed an appeal.

Monsanto's widely used weed killer Roundup on a shelf in Home Depot.
File photo | Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio

Monsanto is facing more pressure to compensate farmers and farm workers who allege that its leading pesticide product caused them to develop cancer. 

A Los Angeles-based law firm on Friday filed 136 new cases against the company in St. Louis County Circuit Court. The lawsuits allege that exposure to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, caused the plaintiffs to develop non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Physicians, clergy, and members of 100 Black Men gathered for a breakfast held by the Prostate Cancer Coalition.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

Black men are nearly two times more likely to die from prostate cancer than any other ethnic group. So when a federal agency cited several studies of mostly white American and European men to recommend against screening for prostate cancer, some St. Louis doctors challenged the decision.

“We worry that we’re going backwards,” said Dr. Arnold Bullock, a urologic surgeon at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and member of the Prostate Cancer Coalition. “Prostate cancer’s the most common cancer in African-American men, and still kills around 30,000 men a year in the U.S.”

Fruit and vegetables
U.S. Department of Agriculture | Flickr | http://bit.ly/2avfETu

In the midst of the HIV/AIDS epidemic of the 1980s, a group of friends in St. Louis started cooking meals in the kitchen of a church. These meals were distributed to seven people they knew who were living with the disease.

That small group of friends quickly grew into a non-profit organization called Food Outreach.  

Today, 28 years after it was founded, Food Outreach provides nutritional counseling and meals to low-income individuals with HIV/AIDS or cancer.

The Witherspoon family

Most of us, at some point, will know someone who is struggling with a life-threatening illness. More than one in three U.S. residents are diagnosed with a form of cancer in their lifetime, and one in nine adults over the age of 65 are living with Alzheimer’s disease.

But when a close friend or loved one shares that they have a serious health issue, we’re often left not knowing what to do or what to say.

An international panel of scientists reported this week that glyphosate, the main ingredient used in Monsanto's weed killer Roundup is unlikely to cause cancer in humans.

Dr. Heidi Miller, (left) and breast health navigator Cherese Agard work at Family Care Health Center in the Forest Park Southeast neighborhood of St. Louis.
Durrie Bouscaren | St. Louis Public Radio

In the past six years, staffers at Family Care Health Center in St. Louis have doubled the number of women coming in for regular mammograms.

It’s part of a region-wide push for “breast health navigators”: women who reach out to other women who aren’t getting mammograms and frequently don’t have health insurance. Then, they figure out how to get them in the door.

Sen. Claire McCaskill announces she has breast cancer

Feb 22, 2016
provided by the office of Sen. Claire McCaskill

“I very recently learned that I have breast cancer,” Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., announced in a statement on Monday.

In a note on her Tumblr page, McCaskill, 62, wrote that her prognosis is good and that she expects a full recovery. The cancer was detected during a routine mammogram, and McCaskill said she will be in St. Louis for three weeks to receive treatment.

Standing from left: U.S. Rodney Davis, John and Kimberly Wade, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin. Seated: Jacky Wade
Provided by the Wade family

Two sets of parents who lost sons to brain cancer last year were in the House chamber for the State of the Union speech when President Barack Obama announced his “new moonshot” effort to cure cancer.

One family’s pain and grief was well known to millions, the other’s heartache was known to a small, close-knit Illinois community a few miles north of St. Louis, a growing number of supporters on Facebook and their local congressman.

This sculpture outside St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis was built to honor the Pediatric Cancer Genome Project, a collaboration between St. Jude and Washington University in St. Louis.
St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital

Almost one in every 10 children with cancer was born with an inherited genetic mutation predisposing them to develop the disease, according to a joint study by Washington University and St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis.

The research suggests that genetic screening could provide an important tool for diagnosing cancers earlier and avoiding ineffective treatments.

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