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PUBLIC CAN LEARN ABOUT CANCER FOR FREE AT CSUN.

Byline: Lisa M. Sodders Staff Writer

Steven B. Oppenheimer wants people to understand cancer, not fear it.

That's why Oppenheimer, director of the Center for Cancer and Developmental Biology at California State University, Northridge, teaches a class called ``Biology of Cancer,'' and lets members of the public sit in for free.

``A lot of people die of cancer because they don't go to the doctor early enough,'' Oppenheimer said. ``One of the main reasons for this course is so that if students notice any (physical) change they're not sure about, they can go to the doctor and get it checked out.

``Treating cancer as early as possible is the key to success.''

The class, which Oppenheimer has taught since 1975, covers a variety of cancers and how they're diagnosed, causes and prevention, cancer epidemiology and pathology, and cancer quackery. Students also will learn how to use the scientific method to separate fact from fiction.

The class uses two books written by Oppenheimer: ``Cancer, A Biological and Clinical Introduction'' and ``Cancer Prevention Guidebook.''

Guest speakers include Dr. Helene Brown of the University of California, Los Angeles, an expert in cancer quackery; Dr. Richard Gaynes, who will talk about cancer pathology; Dr. Eugene Gierson, a Van Nuys breast cancer surgeon; Dr. Roberta Madison, a CSUN expert in epidemiology; and Dr. Bernard Raskin, a Valencia dermatologist and expert in skin cancer.

``It's a class that opens up the minds of many people to cancer, because he brings in speakers from all over the place who are experts in their field,'' said Jim Dole, outgoing chairman of CSUN's Biology Department. ``What it does is make students and whoever else attends aware of the possibilities - number one, the importance of cancer, and number two, that it isn't to be feared in all cases. There are things that can be done.''

``Cancer strikes fewer people than heart disease, stroke or circulatory ailments, but it has a harsher connotation to people because they rarely die immediately and there has been a good deal of pain involved with cancer, so people are quite naturally fearful of the disease,'' said Brown, who is the director of community applications of research at UCLA's Jonsson Cancer Center.

Unfortunately, that fear can sometimes drive those with cancer to someone unscrupulous promising a ``painless'' cure, Brown said. People might be aware of the American Cancer Society's toll-free hotline, (800) ACS-2345, and the National Cancer Institute's (800) 4-CANCER line, ``but still, if you get a diagnosis of cancer, you get scared out of your wits.''

Oppenheimer allows members of the public to attend the class for free; a few have attended every year for the past few years. But nonstudents are asked to find seats about five minutes before class begins, to give students priority.

This year, seats for the public could be in short supply: more than 100 students have signed up for the class, which seats about 120, the most ever, he said.

In addition to educating students and the public, Oppenheimer and Brown said they hope to inspire the next generation of cancer researchers. Oppenheimer himself became interested in cancer research while he was a graduate student at Johns Hopkins University.

Oppenheimer's research specialty is cell adhesion, or what causes one cell to stick to another, and whether cancer cells regress to the embryonic state, which might explain why they spread to other parts of the body.

IF YOU GO

--``Biology of Cancer'' will meet from 6 to 7:40 p.m. Mondays beginning next week in Room 2132 of Science Building II at California State University, Northridge. Members of the public can attend the class for free if space is available after the students have been seated.

CAPTION(S):

photo, box

Photo:

Steven B. Oppenheimer will welcome the public to his upcoming class on cancer, as long as seats remain available.

Gus Ruelas/Staff Photographer

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IF YOU GO (see text)
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Comment:PUBLIC CAN LEARN ABOUT CANCER FOR FREE AT CSUN.(News)
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Aug 21, 2002
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