From 2007 to 2011, an average of 3.6 newly diagnosed cancer cases each year are among children 17 years old and below, a testament to the adage that “cancer knows no age.”
Meanwhile, in school year 2010-2011, 39 percent of public school students on the islands were either overweight or at-risk of being overweight.
Raising awareness, following preventive measures, and seeking treatment for childhood cancer and childhood obesity may be easier said than done but the CNMI has seen its share of success stories.
“More still needs to be done,” Gov. Eloy S. Inos said at a proclamation signing on Friday morning, taking note of the glaring statistics on childhood health in the CNMI while at the same time acknowledging the ongoing efforts to prevent and treat them.
Early detection of childhood cancer and childhood obesity means early diagnosis and better prognosis, the governor’s proclamation reads.
Juan Blanco, an 11-year-old diagnosed with leukemia in May 2007, said on Friday he’s taking his recovery well, thanks to his family, friends, medical professionals and the community that has come together to help cancer survivors, including the Commonwealth Cancer Association.
The Mount Carmel School student helped read portions of a proclamation on Friday morning, declaring September 2013 Childhood Cancer and Childhood Obesity Awareness Month.
Blanco was the same child who, in October 2010, got his wish to meet President Barack Obama through the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Of the 18 newly diagnosed cancer cases among 17-year-olds and younger in the CNMI, leukemia accounts for 33.3 percent. The five-year median age at diagnosis is 13 years old. These are based on data from the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp.
“The causes of childhood cancers are largely unknown,” states the proclamation that the governor signed in the presence of cancer survivors and their families, volunteers, and health professionals.
However, because of the work of the National Cancer Institute, scientists and cancer researchers throughout the U.S. and the rest of the world, real progress is being made against cancer.
In the U.S., the rate of new cancer cases overall has been declining since 1999, and the rate of cancer deaths overall has been decreasing for more than a decade.
These trends reflect improvements in cancer treatment and advances in technology that have led to better tools for understanding, detecting, and diagnosing cancer.
“People with cancer are living longer and have a better quality of life than ever before,” the governor said.
Across the U.S., thousands of children fight pediatric cancer each year, facing life-threatening battles that would challenge men and women of any age.
Among the 12 major types of childhood cancers, leukemia or blood cell cancers, cancers of the brain, and cancers of the central nervous system account for more than half of the new cases.
About a third of childhood cancers are leukemia. The most common type of leukemia in children is acute lymphoblastic and the most common solid tumors are brain tumors.
Since the 1970s, the rate of childhood obesity in the U.S. has tripled. Today, a third of American children are overweight or obese.
Obesity in the CNMI has also been growing at a fast clip. The CNMI has also ranked third in the world for prevalence of Type II diabetes.
Public School System data shows that in school year 2010-2011, some 18 percent of CNMI public school students were at-risk of being overweight, while 21 percent were overweight. This means 39 percent were either overweight or at-risk of being overweight.
These rates were higher than those recorded in schools year 2008-2009 and 2009-2010.
The governor, in addressing the crowd on Friday, said more needs to be done to reduce the number of at-risk and overweight students.
“I ask that we, the general population, continue to reach out to students. And to students, there are alternatives for a good, healthy living,” Inos said.
Inadequate intake of fruits and vegetables is one of the top 10 risk factors for non-communicable diseases, data from the World Health Organization shows.
In the CNMI alone, preliminary results from the National Food and Nutrition questionnaire conducted at the Women, Infants and Children Clinic in fall 2009 shows that 65.1 percent of WIC children 12 months to 5 years old eat fruits one time or less per day and 69.1 percent eat vegetables one time or less a day.
“This data explains a lot. [The] CNMI has a big fruit and veggie consumption problem. We have amazing potential here. We can do something about it,” one of the WIC partners said of the preliminary results of the survey.
In line with this, the CNMI has joined the national Let’s Move campaign, which raises a healthier generation of children. This year’s theme and sub-theme are, “Let’s Move Marianas! Yengyung with the Kankung!”
On Sept. 28, Saturday, advocates will hold an 8am to 11:30am Let’s Move Marianas campaign at the Gilbert C. Ada Sports Complex.
The event will include live cooking/safety demonstrations, fun activities for the young and adults, testimonials from children on childhood obesity and childhood cancer, games and sports such as soccer, Frisbee throwing and obstacle course, along with Zumba and Boxercise. For more information about this event, call 236-8638.
Prostate Cancer Awareness
The governor also signed a proclamation declaring September 2013 CNMI Prostate Cancer Awareness Month with the theme, “Real Men Get Their Facts! Fight Prostate Cancer.”
Bo Palacios, Commonwealth Cancer Association board secretary, said 10 percent of CCA clients are fighting prostate cancer.
The governor, during the ceremony, asked whether there is now a less invasive screening process for prostate cancer.
Dr. Daniel Lamar said that while the current screening process is uncomfortable, it is still the best method to detect prostate cancer. He said blood test is not entirely reliable.
“Our lifestyle plays a big role in preventing cancer,” the doctor said.
About a third of prostate cancer occurs in men under the age of 65 during their prime work years. And at any age, prostate cancer devastates families through loss of income, partnership and support, the governor’s proclamation reads.
Throughout the nation, some 30,000 men lost their lives to prostate cancer in 2010, and one in six men in the nation is at risk of developing it during their lifetime.
Protecting coastal areas
The governor declared September 2013 Coastal Month, raising awareness on the preservation and protection of coastal areas for future generations. The first annual Coastal Month theme is, “Where land meets sea.”
“The coastline is an ever changing place due to the dynamic nature of tides, and just like the coastline, we, the CNMI residents, are facing an ever changing environment that we are having to adapt to and protect,” the governor’s proclamation reads.
The coast is the most populated area for humans. This area where residents and tourists spend recreational time is in danger. The presence of trash, marine debris, bleached corals, and marine life on the coastlines indicate that something is wrong and people need to take action.
Preparing homes, businesses, and communities for any type of emergency including natural disasters and potential terrorist attacks to save lives and reduce economic devastation is the aim of declaring September 2013 National Preparedness Month.
“Emergency preparedness is the responsibility of every citizen of the CNMI and all citizens are encouraged to make preparedness a priority and work together as a team to ensure that individuals, families and communities are prepared for disasters and emergencies of any type,” the governor said in his proclamation.
More information about the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Ready campaign is available at Ready.gov.