Cancer Prevention: A Public Health Approach

 The “public health” approach to prevent cancer works at the population level to reduce or eliminate risk factors for cancer, notes Center Director Thomas A. Sellers, Ph.D., M.P.H. “We know that certain behaviors increase cancer risk — smoking, lack of physical activity, too much alcohol and unsafe sun exposure — the challenge has been to develop incentives and programs designed to help people to avoid those risks and adopt healthier lifestyles,” Dr. Sellers says. No stranger to the importance of prevention, Dr. Sellers joined Moffitt in 2003 as associate center director for Cancer Prevention and Control.

Thomas A. Sellers
Thomas A. Sellers, Ph.D., M.P.H.

He has conducted numerous studies aimed at gaining a better understanding of the genetic factors associated with cancer risk and using the findings to better treat cancer and help to prevent it.

Under the leadership of Dr. Sellers, two of the cancer center’s research programs — Health Outcomes and Behavior and Cancer Epidemiology — were rated “exceptional” during the 2012 review for the National Cancer Institute Cancer Center Support Grant renewal. This is the highest possible rank from the NCI’s extensive peer-review process for cancer center grant funding. Important ongoing cancer prevention research and educational efforts at Moffitt center on tobacco control, vaccines, genetic screening to determine cancer risk, colorectal cancer screening and sun safety.

Prevention Comes Full Circle

Moffitt’s system of care involves a collaborative, interdisciplinary approach to cancer treatment and prevention that takes the whole person into consideration. Each research program focuses on an overall scientific theme and specific aims, which together provide Moffitt’s strong, multidimensional approach to defeating cancer. In addition to Cancer Epidemiology and Health Outcomes and Behavior, current research programs at Moffitt address Immunology, Cancer Biology and Evolution, and Chemical Biology and Molecular Medicine. Scientists working in these research programs frequently collaborate with the physicians and scientists in Moffitt’s various disease-site clinical programs as they join forces to continually rededicate themselves to Moffitt’s unwavering mission to contribute to the prevention and cure of cancer.

“The goal is to translate research findings to the clinic by way of clinical trials. Clinical trials are essential in the quest for better cancer outcomes — and the only outcome that is acceptable is a complete cure,” Dr. Sellers says. “By analogy, we also translate our research into the community into new preventive interventions and early detection.”