This week, the American Cancer Society reported that between 2016 and 2017, the United States recorded the single biggest yearly drop ever in the cancer death rate, a 2.2% decline. Since 1991, the rate of U.S. cancer deaths has dropped 29%.

Most of the decline can be attributed to a drop in lung cancer caused by a generational change in smoking habits largely due to public service information campaigns. But rates also fell for other types of cancer. In the past 17 years, the number of women who lost their lives to breast cancer has fallen more than 26%, while male prostate cancer deaths have dropped 38%.

The news is encouraging, especially in a town that hosts one of the largest and most successful American Cancer Society fund-raising events in the nation (FYI: Relay for Life is April 3). Yet, despite the promising news, cancer remains the second-leading killer in the United States — behind heart disease — and is projected to take the lives of 600,000 Americans this year. 

Which brings us to Be Well Baytown. This year marks the third year of the landmark healthy-community initiative. 

The goal of Be Well Baytown is to mobilize this community and its neighbors to promote wellness and stop cancer before it starts. The initiative focuses on diet, physical activity, preventive care, tobacco control and ultraviolet radiation exposure. 

Made possible by a $10 million donation by ExxonMobil, MD Anderson has been teaming up with Baytown schools, workplaces, social service agencies and others for this community-driven health initiative.

And since its inception, Be Well Baytown has made notable progress with more coordinated efforts planned this year and beyond.

Be Well Baytown is a laudable effort that can positively impact the lives of Baytown residents and neighbors for generations.

Cancer ultimately touches all members of society, either indirectly or directly, as one in two men and one in three women will develop some type of cancer in their lifetime.

It may sound simple, but for those who indulge in fast food and unhealthy eating, avoiding the risk of cancer could be one of leading a healthier lifestyle. Stay away from smoking, eat a healthy diet, exercise regularly, reduce alcohol intake and maintain proper weight. 

Be Well Baytown organizers, supporters and community partners are pointing the way toward real solutions to preventing cancer. We should heed the message to Be Well. www.mdanderson.org/bewellbaytown         

— David Bloom

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