Mixed News: Cancer Rates Drop, But More Younger Patients Affected

The latest cancer statistics report from the American Cancer Society (ACS) paints a complex picture of our struggle against the disease. While cancer mortality rates are declining, a worrying trend emerges: younger people are being diagnosed at an increasing rate. This bittersweet news highlights both the progress we’ve made and the challenges that lie ahead.

This week, the Wall Street Journal delved into this story, seeking expert insights from several scientists, including Dr. Karen Glanz, a Penn cancer epidemiology powerhouse. Dr. Glanz, co-leader of the Penn Medicine Abramson Cancer Center’s (ACC) cancer control research program, provided independent commentary on the ACS report, shining a light on both the good and the not-so-good news.

The encouraging side?

The report reveals that 42% of cancers in the US can be attributed to modifiable risk factors like smoking, diet, and lack of exercise. This means that through proactive measures, we can potentially prevent nearly half of all cancer cases. “If we focused on physical activity, diet, and obesity as major risk factors for some cancers, the payoff could be enormous,” Dr. Glanz emphasized.

Dr. Glanz’s leads the Penn Prevention Research Center and the Center for Health Behavior Research and co-leads the Cancer Control Program at ACC. Her ongoing studies focus on promoting physical activity and reducing obesity, directly addressing the modifiable risk factors we can control.

Engage and Collaborate

But Dr. Glanz’s work is also driven by a passion for community engagement. Her leadership in the Philadelphia Communities Conquering Cancer collaboration is a testament to this. This initiative unites leading cancer centers with local leaders, empowering Philadelphians to fight cancer disparities through community-based interventions, resource sharing, and research.

So, while the ACS report reveals a sobering reality for younger cancer patients, it also underscores the immense potential for prevention. By focusing on modifiable risk factors and empowering communities, we can turn the tide on this disease. Research by Dr. Glanz and her colleagues provides a beacon of hope, a testament to the power of research, community engagement, and a relentless pursuit of a healthier future.

Glanz receives top honors in medicine and research

Karen Glanz, PhD, MPH, received two distinguished honors in the month of November. Dr. Glanz is the George A. Weiss University Professor, Professor of Epidemiology in the Perelman School of Medicine, Professor of Nursing in the School of Nursing, and Director of the Center for Health Behavior Research at the University of Pennsylvania. Now she can add Fellow of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia and two-time Best Female Scientists to her list of titles.



On November 17th, Dr. Glanz was joined by colleagues and guests at the College of Physicians of Philadelphia as she became a Fellow of the College of Physicians. This historic society, dating back to 1787, is dedicated to “better serving the public and lessening human misery.” Dr. Glanz’s signature now joins a legacy of medical luminaries, a testament to her exceptional contributions to the field.

Glanz joins many colleagues at Penn and in the Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology who are fellows, including Drs. John Holmes, Kevin Johnson, Ann O’Sullivan, and Dean Sara Bachman of the School of Social Policy and Practice.



Dr. Glanz’s inclusion in Research.com’s ranking of Best Female Scientists 2023 is equally inspiring. Glanz was ranked as one of the Best Female Scientists for the 2nd year in a row!

The full details on their ranking process can be found on their website, where Dr. Glanz was ranked 546 out of 166,880 female scientists. Sixteen women at the University of Pennsylvania are also on the list.

The 2nd edition of Research.com ranking of top female scientists in the world is based on data acquired from a wide range of bibliometric sources including OpenAlex and CrossRef on 21-12-2022. Position in the ranking is based on a scientist’s overall H-index.

This ranking of best female scientists in the world comprises of leading female scientists from all key areas of science. It was based on a detailed analysis of 166,880 profiles.​


Health Behavior: Theory, Research, and Practice, the book for which Dr. Glanz is the lead Editor, has been cited 11,170 times (3rd edition, 2008). This speaks volumes about the book’s impact, which plays a major role in shaping the way we approach understanding health-related behavior and empowering individuals to make informed choices about their well-being. See the list of some of her most-cited publications at the bottom of her profile page on Research.com.

These honors are not just accolades; they are testaments to Dr. Glanz’s many productive years of work and her unwavering dedication to improving health through research.

Research Day 2021 – Virtual & Open to the Public

Former US Preventive Services Task Force Chief Inspires Real Change: Join Us!

The U.S. lags behind other developed nations in many health outcomes. How can we move from potential to actual health improvement? Be our guest virtually for DBEI & CCEB Research Day on March 24 and hear our 1:30 p.m.keynote by Sue Curry, PhD, former chair of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, and an expert on translating research into policy. Find a detailed schedule, create an account, and register here.

 Attend the full event from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., and be with us as:

* Our top 10 poster presenters give five-minute flash talks and compete for prizes.
* Faculty members share their high-impact research.

  • Biostatistics: Hongzhe Li, PhD: Interrogating the Gut Microbiome — Estimation of Growth Rates and Prediction of Biosynthetic Gene Clusters.
  • Pamela Shaw, PhD: Efficient Study Designs for the Analysis of Error-Prone Electronic Health Record (EHR) Data.
  • Epidemiology: Sean Hennessy, PharmD, PhD: Medicines as Thermo-Protectants?
  • Informatics: Blanca Himes, PhD: Enhancing Electronic Health Record Data to Address Health Disparities.
  • Dr. Curry presents “Population Health: Making Science Matter,” the Brian L. Strom Visiting Professorship Lecture. Dr. Curry is an emeritus Dean and Distinguished Professor in the Department of Health Management and Policy of the University of Iowa College of Public Health.

Learn more and register for the event here.



Dr. Glanz named to new NAS committee

National collaboration on sunscreen science

Karen Glanz, PhD, MPH, a George A. Weiss University Professor at the University of Pennsylvania, has been named to a new National Academy of Sciences committee: Committee on Environmental Impact of Currently Marketed Sunscreens and Potential Human Impacts of Changes in Sunscreen Usage. The study is sponsored by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and managed by the Ocean Studies Board and the National Academy of Medicine’s Health and Medicine Division.

This study will review the state of science on the use of currently marketed sunscreen ingredients, their fate and effects in aquatic environments, and the potential public health implications associated with changes in sunscreen usage.


Why is the study being done? 

Concerns have been raised about the potential toxicity of sunscreens to a variety of marine and freshwater aquatic organisms, particularly corals. At the same time, there are concerns that people will use less sunscreen rather than substituting sunscreens with UV filters that are considered environmentally safe.

Karen Glanz has been conducting research in skin cancer prevention for more than 25 years.  She is internationally recognized as a leader in the study of human behavior related to sun protection, and commercial aspects of sunscreen sales and purchases.

COVID-19 Risk Perception, Knowledge, and Behaviors in 6 States

In May 2020, UPenn PRC Director, Karen Glanz, PhD, MPH, received one of the thirteen COVID-19 Rapid Response Research Grants from Penn’s Leonard Davis Institute. 

The study aim is to assess individuals’ risk perceptions, knowledge, and behaviors related to prevention of COVID-19, response to the pandemic, and psychological impacts of quarantine and/or diagnosis of COVID-19. Primary outcomes are: individuals’ behaviors, risk perceptions, knowledge, and behaviors related to prevention and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Secondary outcomes are: changes in risk perceptions, knowledge, and behaviors about the COVID-19 pandemic over time, by geographic area, and by personal experience with the disease.

Karen Glanz, PhD, MPH

Principal Investigator:
Karen Glanz, PhD, MPH

John Holmes, PhD

John Holmes, PhD

Penn’s Faculty respond to the COVID-19 pandemic

Changing daily

The world is changing daily and news outlets are trying to keep everyone informed with the latest updates, and the best strategies to combat the virus, with a captive audience as millions self-isolate.

The faculty at the University of Pennsylvania have stepped up to the microphone, to offer their expertise in how we as a community, both academic and medical, handle the population’s needs during this time.

Penn’s Leonard Davis Institute (Penn LDI) has created a website tracking the contributions to the press from affiliated faculty. The website lists the article with a link to the source, and the name of the faculty contributor. You can also follow their Twitter channel for the latest additions to the list.

Expert voices

One notable contribution is our own director’s, Karen Glanz, PhD, MPH. Dr. Glanz was interviewed for an article in The Atlantic, focusing on getting exercise during social isolation.

Dr. Glanz encourages everyone to “stay as active as they can; it helps with feeling good; staying healthy and maintaining sanity.”

John H. Holmes, the UPenn PRC Evaluation Core Lead, gave an update from the University of Pavia in Italy, and Carolyn Cannuscio, our Community Engagement Core Lead, has been the voice of social distancing across all channels. She has been a valuable source for the media during this time, regarding social distancing and how it affects public health, as seen in this interview by Vox.

Karen Glanz and Carmen Guerra co-authored an op-ed published in the Philadelphia Inquirer on April 14, 2020. The piece brings to light the racial disparities in care for people with COVID-19, from social distancing practices, to testing, and ultimately, to those who succumb to the virus. Read the article online or the pdf version.

Follow us on Twitter for the latest news from our center and our affiliated faculty.


UPenn PRC helps to accelerate implementation of evidence-based cancer prevention and control

Accelerate progress

The Evidence Academy model was developed to bring together researchers, health professionals, advocates, and policy makers to accelerate the process of integrating research findings into practice.

Bringing in the experts

The University of Pennsylvania Collaborating Center of the Cancer Prevention and Control Research Network (CPCRN) assembled local and national experts in three different Evidence Academies (EAs) on the UPenn campus from 2015 to 2018.

The EAs were used to present research and discuss barriers and solutions to topics that affect the health of our communities. As a result, an article describing three evidence academies and the lessons learned was just published in the journal Preventive Medicine.

The Topics

The focus of the Evidence Academies were:
Prostate cancer (2015)
Food access, diet and obesity (2017)
Tobacco control science (2018)

The paper on these EAs is a part of a special supplemental issue, produced by the CPCRN which is funded by the CDC’s Division of Cancer Prevention and Control and the National Cancer Institute.

The goal of the network is to reduce the impact of cancers that affects all communities, by connecting public health practitioners, policymakers, and others to the research and strategies found to be most effective. Twelve articles come from centers across the United States linked by a common cause, “reducing cancer burden in diverse populations.”

The cancer prevention and control research network: Accelerating the implementation of evidence-based cancer prevention and control interventions (Guest Editor Commentary). Leeman J, Glanz K, Hannon P, Shannon J.

An application of the Science Impact Framework to the Cancer Prevention and Control Research Network from 2014-2018. Ko LK, Jang SH, Friedman DB, Glanz K, Leeman J, Hannon PA, Shannon J, Cole A, Williams R, Vu T.

*This issue is open access

How many ways do you protect yourself from harmful UV rays?

Skin cancer prevention practices aim to reduce exposure to harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays that causes skin cancer. There are several behaviors that can protect the skin from the harmful radiation – using sunscreen, wearing hats and shirts, and seeking shade.

The Study

Researchers at Penn conducted an experiment with white men and women between the ages of 18 – 49 years old, to see if specific health communication messages would change their intentions to protect themselves from the sun.

Researchers asked participants to watch videos, and then to report whether they would be more or less likely to use the protection method featured. They also viewed messages that contained more than one protective behavior.

The Findings

The results of the experiment showed that messages which emphasized only one sun protection behavior with general sun safety messaging were more promising than those that focused on multiple behaviors.  In some cases, men and women responded differently. More women in the study felt strongly that they would miss out on activities if they applied sunscreen, but they felt positive about protecting their head and face from the sun by covering up. On the other hand, men more often felt they would miss out on activities if they sought shade.

Investigators did not see specific messages rising to the top in this study, and suggest that focusing on a single sun protection behavior initially would be more effective.  This is seen as a first step, as longer communication campaigns may be needed to achieve lasting changes. One viewing of a message about protection is not enough to change a person’s behavior when it comes to sun protection methods.

Read the full paper here.

Bleakley A, Jordan A, Strasser A, Lazovich D, Glanz K. Testing General Versus Specific Behavioral Focus in Messaging for the Promotion of Sun Protection BehaviorsAnnals of Behavioral Medicine, 2019 Oct 4

CDC report features the Skin Cancer Communication Project

The CDC recently released its 5th annual Skin Cancer Prevention Progress Report. The report features findings, highlights, and success stories from their community of partners since the 2018 report. On page 9 of the document you will find a full-page summary of our CDC grant results for quitting indoor tanning among young women.


Click here to read the CDC summary.

Effective health communication through media channels can contribute to skin cancer prevention in important ways, especially if the messages are targeted to specific groups. Read more about our Skin Cancer Communication Project here.

The Definition of Health

In 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) describes health as a “state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Jason Karlawish, principal investigator of the UPenn PRC Cognitive Aging Communication Project and the Healthy Brain Research Network, and co-director of the Penn Memory Center (PMC), teamed up with PMC scholar Cara Kiernan Fallon to author editorials for the American Journal of Public Health and STAT supporting the updates to the definition of health. The pair argue that as medical science prolongs our lifespan and improves the quality of life while living with disease, the definition should expand to include noncommunicable disease and special considerations for the elderly.

Read the editorials authored by Jason Karlawish, MD, and Cara Kiernan Fallon, PhD, MPH here:

American Journal of Public Health


AUDIO: Cutting down on Food Waste

LISTEN: On Thursday, June 6, 2019, UPenn PRC director Karen Glanz participated in a discussion on Business Radio Powered by The Wharton School, Penn’s Sirius XM station, on the FDA’s attempts to make best by dates less confusing for consumers and thus cut down on food waste.


The conversation included the show’s host, Dan Loney, and Catherine Donnelly of the University of Vermont. They discussed a standardized “Best if used by” date on food labels, in order to give consumers a clear idea of a packaged food product’s shelf life. Click the link above to hear the conversation.


This broadcast originally aired on Sirius XM Channel 132, Business Radio Powered by The Wharton School.



In the past there have been different terms used to communicate to consumers and retailers about packaged food products, like “use before,””sell by” and “packaged on,” etc. It can be confusing to consumers when it comes to storing, using and disposing of these products. “About 40% of the food that is produced in the United States is prematurely discarded and 20% is due to confusion around these date labels, ” says Donnelly. “Creating the standardization will get us all back on the same page. This is a great start to get us all back to a common area and from there we can disseminate more information that can get down to more specifics about potentially hazardous foods, shelf-stable products, etc.”


“There are layers on top of layers here, and when you talk about how we relate to food compared to 20 – 30 years ago, we’re cooking much less, so we’re relying more on combination foods, processed foods, packaged foods,” says Glanz. “I can only hope that the FDA and the federal agencies don’t stop at making this standardization suggestion to industry, but carry on with education efforts, working with the USDA, and existing organizations. I also hope they will support additional research.”


Learn more about the suggested standardization here.