An app on Dr. Roy Jensen’s phone counts down the days until the University of Kansas Cancer Center’s application to be designated “comprehensive” by the National Cancer Institute is due.
“To some extent, comprehensive status is a good conduct medal for things you’re doing,” Jensen, director of the center, said of its quest for the designation, which fewer than 70 cancer centers across the country have.
If the KU Cancer Center gets the designation, it’ll be the only comprehensive cancer center in Kansas.
In addition to conducting research into basic science and clinical medicine, the cancer center in Kansas City, Kan., must demonstrate it’s working with the community on cancer prevention and education.
To that end, Jensen said KU doctors educated state lawmakers on the dangers of melanoma and lobbied for an indoor tanning ban for minors, which passed this session.
“A one-time use before age 35 increases the risk of melanoma by almost 60 percent,” Jensen said, adding that many children lack the appropriate level of judgment to make those decisions for themselves. “We felt there was no public policy measure that we could undertake that would have a bigger impact on this disease than this house bill.”
When similar legislation was introduced in 2013, Rep. Daniel Hawkins, R-Wichita, said he was one of its most vocal opponents.
“I did almost everything I could (to defeat it) because I didn’t think we needed more regulation,” Hawkins said.
But after meeting with constituents who survived melanoma, Hawkins had a change of heart. There are about 800 new cases of melanoma in Kansas each year.
The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network has lobbied for similar legislation across the country. Jensen said the Kansas law is one of the most effective because there’s no parental exception. He said it will be highlighted in the KU Cancer Center’s National Cancer Institute application, which is due Sept. 26.
“We feel like we’re responsible for each and every patient that gets diagnosed with cancer within our catchment area,” Jensen said.
— Elle Moxley is a reporter for KCUR.