The Lung Force Walk – Bridgewater is coming up on September 23rd at Duke Island Park.
Erica Masin is the Executive Director of the American Lung Association of NJ and NYC. Dr. Albert Rizzo is the Chief Medical Officer for the American Lung Association. They joined Jim Monaghan on WDHA’s Jersey Magazine to talk about this year’s event and the ongoing fight against lung cancer.
JIM MONAGHAN – Here on the Jersey Magazine this morning, I have two guests with me. Erica Masin is the Executive Director of the American Lung Association for New Jersey and New York City, and Dr. Albert Rizzo, who is the Chief Medical Officer for the American Lung Association. Erica, Dr. Rizzo, good morning and welcome to WDHA and the Jersey Magazine.
DR RIZZO – Good morning.
JM – Erica, let me start with you. There’s a Lung Force Walk in Bridgewater coming, coming up on September 23. Tell our listeners about that.
ERICA MASIN – Yes, we’re really excited for our 9th annual Lung Force Walk here in New Jersey, held at Duke Island Park in Bridgewater, New Jersey. Our event is expecting over 500 people coming out to support lung health and against lung disease like lung cancer, COPD, asthma and other chronic lung diseases. So it’s a great community event to honor people who have been lost to lung disease, but also to walk for those who are living with chronic lung disease too.
JM – And what’s this year’s financial goal?
EM – $155,000. So we’re on our way. We have a lot of great community partners, including Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey and Protect Environmental, and we’re excited to have more as we get closer to the event, too.
JM – Dr. Rizzo, on the medical side, what are some of the latest advances in lung cancer research that you’ve seen?
AR – Well, the biggest thing over the last probably 10 to 15 years is the improved survival due to a combination of things – targeted mutation therapy that now helps many individuals survive longer, and Immunotherapy is another big proponent of that benefit. And the other benefit is getting people screened for lung cancer and finding it in their early stages where cure can be achieved, usually with surgical resections. So that’s a big component of what we do at the Lung Association, is promote the screening and tell people that there are certainly ways to improve their survival of lung cancer.
JM – What’s involved in the lung screening?
AR – The lung screening really is looking at people who we know are at risk. And right now that means individuals between the ages of 50 and 80 who have smoked 20 pack years during that time and are still smoking within the last 15 years. The reason for those specifics is that that’s the group that benefits from getting screened and not having so many false positives show up. So the screening really targets individuals who are highly likely to be at risk for lung cancer.
JM – And how often should you get screened?
AR – Well, after that first screen, if it’s completely negative, it’s just yearly.
After that, if there are some lesions that can’t be determined as whether they’re benign or not, sometimes a three-to-six month follow up scan is recommended.
JM – Erica Masin, my guest, along with Dr. Albert Rizzo here on the Jersey Magazine at 105.5 WDHA. Lung Force Walk – Bridgewater coming up on September 23rd in Duke Island Park in Bridgewater. Smoking. Erica seems to be down especially. I know, among my own friends when I was a kid, everybody seemed to smoke. All my parents, my parents’ friends, older aunts and uncles and cousins. It seems to be on the decline.
EM – I mean, I could definitely have Dr. Rizzo speak to that too. I think when we think about know, we think about it traditionally, but we have to also think about e-cigarettes and vaping and that epidemic that’s really taking over in our youth as well.
AR – Yes, we’ve made a lot of progress with smoking rates, but unfortunately, there’s a whole new generation that may become smokers of the future because of the vaping epidemic, the e-cigarettes that are so available and very weakly controlled and overseen by the FDA at this point in time, despite many of our organization’s efforts.
JM – Interesting that you use the word “epidemic.” Why did you say that?
AR – The surgeon general recommended it as a term because of the number of middle school and high school students that have started to vape compared to what was there several years ago.
JM – I think the perception is you’re not smoking. So the tar and the nicotine, et cetera, I think that’s the perception among young kids. I know I had two teenagers who were in high school and a lot of their friends vaped, and they’d look at that going, “Isn’t that unhealthy for them?”
AR – Yeah. So the children themselves, the users, but also parents, unfortunately don’t know the facts about e-cigarettes. And that’s a big campaign we have trying to make people aware of it, make parents aware of it, talk with their children about it to help them understand it’s not just water vapor coming out of those devices.
JM – What are the dangers from vaping as opposed to cigarette smoking itself?
AR – Well, we think they’re very similar. Unfortunately, e-cigarettes have not been around long enough to have the data showing the development of lung cancer or COPD, but we know that it flares asthma, causes irritation in the airways, cough, and certainly becomes an addiction because of nicotine contained in these devices. So long term results are not available. That’s why we’re so concerned that we think it’s going to head to problems.
JM – And where does marijuana fit into this? Does it even in fact fit into it?
AR – Well, it’s certainly one of the components of a vaping device. It has different chemicals as compared to an e-cigarette. But like many things, e-cigarettes and vaping devices with marijuana are not controlled by any organization like the FDA. So we really don’t know what’s in it. And there was a problem several years ago with a contaminant in marijuana vape cigarettes that had the EVALI developed the life threatening lung injury that occurred because of a vitamin e acetate contaminant. So a lot of unknowns around vaping, whether it’s tobacco, nicotine, or marijuana.
JM – Erica, in addition to Lung Force walk in Bridgewater, what are some of the other events that you hold throughout the year?
EM – Well, that is our fall event. In the spring, we do host a Fight For Air Stair Climbing event up in North Jersey, previously held at Red Bull Arena where we climb the steps. And the whole idea of it is to kind of mimic what it’s like to use your lungs in a different way and to struggle to breathe. So that happens in April, so we’ll be heading there. And in November we have a virtual event kind of to kick off Lung Cancer Awareness Month called the Latest in Lung Cancer. So we’ll be starting to promote that soon and have more information available there. But it’s a great opportunity to hear from local pulmonologists and researchers around lung cancer and screening and a lot of the other areas Rr.Rizzo has talked about.
JM – You mentioned virtual. I know there’s a virtual component to the Bridgewater Walk on September 23rd. Tell our listeners about that, Erica.
EM – Yes. Anyone can register when they go to LUNGFORCE.org Bridgewater, and from there they can register to be in person or our virtual option, which is called Walk Your Way. We encourage people to do that. They can download the Lung Force app and follow along and track their steps. They can do a walk at their home or at a different time when it’s more convenient to them and join our Facebook groups. They can follow along with our Facebook Live from that day.
JM – Dr. Rizzo, I know that smoking, as a general rule has been down in this country for the last few years. I think we’re starting to get down to where we’re close to only 10% of Americans smoking these days. What are some of the other causes of lung cancer that our listeners should be aware of?
AR – Yeah, aside from tobacco, which is by far the number one, radon in the homes that can be detected but often is not checked for, is another big component of risk and in fact, just air pollution. Poor air quality was made a carcinogen by the World Health Organization a number of years ago. So I would say smoking, radon, secondhand smoke, and poor air quality rank up there. And there is some component of family history as well. So if you have a history, talk with your doctor about your family history and whether or not that’s an important risk factor.
JM – And Erica, if you would give our listeners that web address one more time for registration for the Bridgewater walk.
EM – Absolutely. It’s LUNGFORCE.org/bridgewater.
JM – Erica Masin, who is the Executive Director of the American Lung Association for New Jersey and New York City, and Dr. Albert Rizzo, Chief Medical Officer for the American Lung Association. Thank you very much for your time this morning on Jersey Magazine. And best of luck with this year’s event.
EM – Thank you.