Here's What Congress Can Do to Make Cancer a Preventable Disease

Friendly female doctor's hands holding patient's hand lying in bed for encouragement, empathy, cheering and support while med
Friendly female doctor's hands holding patient's hand lying in bed for encouragement, empathy, cheering and support while medical examination. Trust and ethics concept. Bad news lessening and support

Every American has been touched by cancer in some way. Whether they have received a diagnosis themselves or experienced it through a family member or close friend, the pain, the fear, the challenges and the courage that come with a cancer diagnosis are familiar to many of us.

The National Cancer Institute estimates that more than 1.6 million Americans will receive a cancer diagnosis this year and approximately 595,690 people will die from this devastating disease -- that's 1,632 moms and dads, sons and daughters, grandparents, siblings and friends every day.

While progress has been made to combat this staggering trend, significant work remains to make cancer a disease of the past.

In his 2016 State of the Union Address, President Obama announced a new national effort to get this done and challenged us to make America the country that cures cancer once and for all. I have witnessed firsthand my own family members and friends fight this horrible disease, and these experiences inspire me and many others to redouble our efforts to eradicate cancer.

Over the past 40 years, billions have been invested into research and treatment. These critical investments must continue. At the same time, we must recognize that only a small percentage of funding is allocated to cancer prevention and control. As we learn more about cancer, we learn that there are critical steps people can take every day to reduce their cancer risk, and we have a responsibility to ensure that message is reaching every American.

That is why Congressman Tim Murphy and I came together to launch the first-of-its-kind bipartisan Congressional Cancer Prevention Caucus. We believe that educating the public about ways to prevent cancer from developing in the first place is the key to lessening the overall incidence of cancer and alleviating the impacts of this disease.

This bipartisan caucus will provide a forum to engage Members of Congress, their staffs, the medical community, and the public on lifestyle and environmental factors that can help prevent cancer before it starts. Additionally, we aim to promote and support legislation focusing on issues such as diet and exercise, protective vaccinations, education about the risks of tobacco and alcohol, and many others. Our goal will be to build on the work of organizations such as Less Cancer and others, who do so much to raise awareness about the importance of prevention.

The fight against cancer is one of the most critical challenges we face today. As Members of Congress, it is our duty to take part in that fight by providing the public with the necessary information to make educated and healthy lifestyle choices. It is my hope that the Cancer Prevention Caucus will foster a new and meaningful conversation about cancer. And ultimately bring us closer to a world where cancer is considered a preventable disease.

This blog post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and lesscancer.org, in recognition of National Cancer Prevention Day (Feb. 4), and in conjunction with lesscancer.org's event on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., that day. For more information about the event, visit here. To livestream the proceedings, visit here at 9 am on Feb. 4.