Newswise — Many cancers and chronic diseases are influenced by lifestyle and can be prevented. But most of us don’t know where to start. As the new year begins, an easy first step is the Your Disease Risk website. It offers a free online tool that measures a person’s individual risk of 12 common cancers and five major chronic diseases.
The tool, developed by researchers at Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, incorporates the latest scientific evidence on disease risk.
Users are asked to answer a series of simple questions about their medical history, eating habits, exercise and other behaviors. They then receive personalized estimates of their risks for bladder, breast, cervical, colon, kidney, lung, melanoma, ovarian, pancreatic, prostate, stomach and uterine cancer, as well as heart disease, diabetes, stroke, osteoporosis and emphysema/chronic bronchitis.
Newly rebuilt and easier to use, the website is easily accessible on mobile, tablet and laptop devices, as well as desktop computers. Users also receive personal prevention recommendations and can see how lifestyle changes – such as eating more vegetables or exercising more frequently – can lower their disease risk.
It is estimated that healthy lifestyles could prevent half of all cancers and up to 80 percent of cases of heart disease, stroke and diabetes.
“We know how to prevent many cancers and chronic diseases,” said Graham Colditz, MD, DrPH. “But many people don’t know their disease risks or what, specifically, they can do to reduce those risks. Your Disease Risk is easy to use and is continually updated to incorporate new scientific data on disease risk and prevention.”
Colditz, the Niess-Gain Professor of Surgery at the School of Medicine and associate director of prevention and control at Siteman, developed Your Disease Risk with Hank Dart, a public health expert at Siteman. Colditz is an expert in disease prevention and chronic disease epidemiology. Among other roles, he was the principal investigator on the Nurses’ Health Study from 1996 to 2006. The study of nearly 122,000 nurses investigated risk factors for major chronic diseases in women. Colditz also established and was the founding principal investigator on the Growing Up Today Study, which related the diets and lifestyles of nearly 17,000 adolescents ages 9 to 14 to their growth and health outcomes.
Your Disease Risk, first unveiled 17 years ago, has been revitalized with an improved user experience and updated risk calculations. Upgrades include:
- User-friendly design. Your Disease Risk now works across multiple media platforms: smartphones, tablets, laptops and desktop computers.
- Updated science. Regular reviews keep Your Disease Risk current regarding scientific evidence on disease risk factors.
- Innovative “Risk Snapshot.” By answering one series of questions, the new Snapshot tool provides users with quick risk estimates of three major cancers – breast, lung and colon – as well as diabetes, stroke and heart disease.
- Ranking of behavior-change benefits. Using a three-arrow scale, users can easily see which health recommendations are likely to lower their disease risk the most.
The website does not ask users to register, so no personal information is collected or stored. All information is deleted when users exit the site.
“We were one of the first online risk-assessment tools, launching in January 2000 and reaching millions of people with important health messages since,” Colditz said. “We’re excited to continue helping people improve their health and well-being with an updated, modern site.”
Washington University School of Medicine‘s 2,100 employed and volunteer faculty physicians also are the medical staff of Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals. The School of Medicine is one of the leading medical research, teaching and patient-care institutions in the nation, currently ranked seventh in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Through its affiliations with Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals, the School of Medicine is linked to BJC HealthCare.
Siteman Cancer Center, ranked among the top cancer treatment centers by U.S. News & World Report, also is one of only a few cancer centers to receive the highest rating of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) – “exceptional.” Comprising the cancer research, prevention and treatment programs of Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Siteman treats adults at five locations and partners with St. Louis Children’s Hospital in the treatment of pediatric patients. Siteman is Missouri’s only NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center and the state’s only member of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network. Through the Siteman Cancer Network, Siteman Cancer Center works with regional medical centers to improve the health and well-being of people and communities by expanding access to cancer prevention and control strategies, clinical studies and genomic and genetic testing, all aimed at reducing the burden of cancer.