The University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Comprehensive Cancer Center commemorated the signing of legislation requiring the Alabama Department of Public Health to create breast, cervical, and colorectal cancer screening programs designed to save the lives of thousands of Alabamians in an event held May 19.

Cancer Center Director Edward Partridge, MD, president-elect of the American Cancer Society (ACS) National Board of Directors, and State Rep. Paul DeMarco (R) of Homewood were featured speakers. Representatives from various cancer organizations, as well as many cancer patients and survivors, were on hand for the commemoration, which included a video of prepared remarks by Gov Bob Riley.

Riley signed the legislation in advance of the event, which he was originally planning to attend; the Gulf oil spill situation dictated a change in the governor’s schedule.

The new act, which originated in House Bill 600, gives statutory authority for breast, cervical and colorectal cancer screening programs to the Department of Public Health. Experts say the life-saving practice of expanding proven cancer screening programs benefits everyone, especially the medically under-served and the uninsured.

"We have a responsibility to do the right thing, and this act makes breast, cervical and colorectal cancer prevention and awareness a vital part of our state’s anti-cancer policy," Riley said. "Since these forms of the disease are treatable and curable if they’re caught early enough, a vital screening program deserves our full support."

Approved by the Alabama Legislature earlier this year, the act also supports raising public awareness about cancer prevention and detection as a responsible and cost-effective health measure. It formalizes the collection and research value of confidential health data gathered on breast, cervical and colorectal cancer prevention and incidence.

"It is tragic when cancer causes the loss of a life, and to me it’s completely unnecessary when upward of 70 percent of all cancer deaths can be prevented through screening and early detection," Partridge said, praising the new act and the many academic, legislative, public health, business and nonprofit leaders who advocated for the legislation.

The act was authored by DeMarco after he worked with Partridge, representatives from ACS, the University of South Alabama (USA) Mitchell Cancer Institute and many of those attending the signing ceremony to host the "Alabama Cancer Summit 2009: A Call to Action." The event was held last May at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex.

DeMarco said it became obvious during last year’s summit and through regular discussions with public-health officials that enacting such a law could lead to improved support for these screenings. "I am optimistic this legislation will reduce the state’s high cancer death rate," he said.

Source: University of Alabama at Birmingham