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Report: Healthier Lifestyle Could Prevent Half of Cancer Deaths

ATLANTA—If Americans stopped smoking, ate healthier, worked out more and made better use of available screening tests, half of cancer deaths could be prevented, according to a report released by the American Cancer Society (ACS) in late March.

The annual report, Cancer Prevention and Early Detection Facts & Figures 2005, showed that about 35 percent of US adults are overweight and another 30 percent are considered obese. Nearly 16 percent of kids ages 6 to 19 were considered too heavy. Heavy kids are more likely to become heavy adults, and the 2003 ACS report found that excess weight raises the risk of dying from many types of cancer including breast cancer in certain age groups, the most common cancer for women, and prostate cancer, the most common cancer for men.

The report stated numerous reason for the obesity problems including high-calorie foods being widely marketed and available, Americans relying more on cars, schools cutting physical education programs, and kids favoring television, video games and computers to outdoor activities. The report urges Americans to follow ACS nutritional and exercise guidelines while encouraging restaurants to provide nutritional information, having communities designed to encourage exercise with safe sidewalks, bike lanes, and parks, and improving the quality of food served to children at school.

Despite obesity rates, the U.S. has made some progress in reducing the threat of cancer. Fewer adults and children are smoking because of many factors including higher tobacco taxes, laws limiting smoking in public places and anti-smoking legislation; however, the report warns that many state programs that helped lower smoking rates have been drastically scaled back because of budget problems.

Besides lifestyle changes, the report said following screening recommendations was crucial to reducing the risk of dying from cancer. Rates of breast and cervical cancer screening are generally high, however colon cancer screening remains low. The report said improving insurance coverage of these procedures is key to increasing their use.

Visit the April 2005 news archive for more news stories.

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