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Forum aims to help medical professionals talk to patients about cancer risk from radon exposure

Wed, Apr 7th, 2010
Posted in State of Minnesota

A forum for medical professionals to increase their awareness of radon as a leading cause of lung cancer will be held Thursday, May 6 in Bloomington.

The event, sponsored by the Minnesota Department of Health, the American Lung Association of the Upper Midwest, A Breath of Hope Lung Foundation and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, will be held from 8 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. at the Embassy Suites airport hotel, 7901 34th Ave. So., Bloomington. Other participating organizations include the American Academy of Physician Assistants, American Association of Radon Scientists and Technologists, Minnesota Oncology and Park Nicollet Frauenshuh Cancer Center.

Radon is responsible for 21,000 lung cancer deaths every year in the U.S. and is the number one cause of lung cancer among non-smokers and the second leading cause overall of lung cancer in the United States, after smoking. Historically, radon exposure prevention efforts have focused on home owners, realtors and home builders. The forum is part of a new effort by the EPA, ALA and others to enlist the help of the medical community

The objective of the forum is to provide health care providers with a better understanding of radon, its role in causing lung cancer, and how to prevent it, so they will be more likely to educate their patients about ways to reduce their risks. This will complement Minnesota's strong policy initiatives including the law that went into effect last year that requires radon resistant features in all newly built homes in the state.

"The medical community has, by and large, not been very active in making our patients aware of the significant health hazard posed by radon," said Dr. Joseph Leach, Medical Director of Oncology Research at Frauenschuh Cancer Center. "There is much more we could do to reduce the cancer incidence caused by this largely preventable carcinogen. The first step is to increase the level of awareness and comfort that health providers have with this subject. That can only be done through education."

Studies show that when physicians and patients have effective communications about a disease risk, patients have better outcomes. "Talk to your doctor" may be one of the most common pieces of advice given to help patients manage cancer risk. At the same time, however, the support given to physicians for talking with patients about lung cancer prevention from radon has not been extensive.

"Medical professionals will receive tools they can use to help them talk to their patients about the health risks of radon and how they can prevent radon exposure in their homes," said Andrew Gilbert, radon program specialist with the Environmental Health Division of MDH. "The information can save lives. We hope individuals will take action to protect their health and the health of their families."

The forum will address the basics in defining exposure pathways, who is at risk, radon toxicity, detection and mitigation, the most recent scientific data that support radon's cancer causing effects and provide additional resources for patients, including free testing kits.

In addition to Dr. Leach, presenters will include Richard Guimond, former U.S. assistant surgeon general; Dr. Bill Field, Dept. of Occupational and Environmental Health, University of Iowa; and Michele O'Brien of Minnesota Oncology. The forum also will offer the personal stories of lung cancer survivors.

Those who attend the forum will be able to receive six hours of Continuing Medical Education (CME) credit pending approval by the AAPA.

For more information and registration materials, visit or call 1-800-788-5864. Links to information can also be found on the MDH Web site at

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