We travelled to the Eastern campus of West Virginia University Wednesday and unveiled the new WVU Cancer Institute brand at Berkeley Medical Center.

This approach is designed to link all of our WVU Medicine cancer providers under a single umbrella of care, approach and advancement.

One approach to cancer. One West Virginia University. One West Virginia.

This alignment and commitment to excellence creates the most cutting-edge approaches to diagnosis, targeted treatment, advanced knowledge, clinical trials and translational research to provide precision-directed treatment.

However, our primary goal is to focus on prevention.

We know that the two biggest preventable risk factors for the development of cancer is smoking and obesity.

We have previously outlined this data in an editorial to the Gazette/Mail but WV vendors sold 173,000,000 packs of cigarettes last year – about 35 billion cigarettes.

Over 3.5 million packs were purchased by children under 18.

West Virginia has the highest rates of smoking in adults, in children under 18 and in pregnant women.

There is a key economic burden for smoking - $277 million spend yearly for Medicaid; $1.2 billion in direct healthcare spend; another $1 billion in indirect economic loss. Each pack costs us about $7 in healthcare costs.

Cigarettes are also the most directly preventable cause of cancer.

They are proven to accelerate aging in our bodies, in our tissues, where cancer can start.

Enhancing taxes on cigarettes will reduce the burden of smoking on our most vulnerable people – children, young adults and pregnant women.

Obesity is the other preventable cause of cancer.

"Good Calories, Bad Calories."

A friend of mine, Gary Taubes, wrote a game changing book called "Good Calories, Bad Calories."

He is a critically thinking and brilliant investigative journalist.

Gary became interested in why America is obese and dived into all the research he could find.

He went into this journey thinking that obesity resulted from too little exercise and too much food. He came out of his research with a different answer.

Obesity occurs because of our huge intake of SUGAR.

The average American eats between 45-to-156lbs of processed sugar per year.

Wow!

Our epidemic accelerated when the USDA came out with low fat guidelines – since protein is basically fixed in our diets, less fat means more carbs.

Carbs in western diets are largely processed sugars.

Sugar enhances insulin receptor activation, which stores fat.

How to lose weight? Reduce simple carbs and exercise (I try to hit 12,000 steps per day).

Other issues to consider - sleep, stay connected to people and purpose, and be grateful.

Our visit to the eastern campus was uplifting – great people, great purpose and a great opportunity to enhance cancer care.

But our most important opportunity is to provide health and prevent disease.

Working together and creating a beacon in our state.