Scientists call for new definition of cancer

31 July 2013

The definition of cancer should be changed to reflect the fact that many lesions are slow-growing, low-risk and do not require aggressive cancer treatment, experts have claimed.

Scientists convened by the US National Cancer Institute say the classification of diseases currently grouped together as 'cancer' should be rethought, as many cases - such as small lesions detected through breast screening - are unlikely to be life-threatening.

A new classification system would address the growing problems of over-diagnosis and over-treatment, they argue in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

This is when patients are diagnosed and treated for cancers that might never cause any harm during their lifetime.

'By recognising that cancer is not one disease, but a number of different diseases, we can individualise our treatment based on biology and avoid over-treatment,' said Dr Laura Esserman, a University of California, San Francisco scientist who chaired the panel.

She added that the goal is to focus screening policies on those conditions that are most likely to lead to aggressive illness and death if left untreated.

Posted by Jeanette Royston

 

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