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News » Filed under: Advocacy, Prevention/Early Detection

ACS Report: Changing Behaviors to Reduce Cancer Risk Remains Challenging

Article date: April 11, 2013

By Stacy Simon

A new report from the American Cancer Society says much of the suffering and death from cancer could be prevented by a more coordinated effort to change individual health behaviors. The report, Cancer Prevention & Early Detection Facts & Figures 2013 (CPED), emphasizes that individual health behaviors are strongly influenced by social, economic, and legislative factors. Behaviors that are known to lower cancer risk include avoiding tobacco, maintaining a healthy weight, eating a healthy diet, getting enough exercise, and getting recommended screenings and vaccinations.

The American Cancer Society and its nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) continue to call for more collaboration among government agencies, private companies, nonprofit organizations, health care providers, policy makers, and the American public to increase the number of people who adopt behaviors that can lower cancer risk.

“Our report is a striking reminder that we need to do a better job reducing behavioral risk factors that increase cancer risk,” said lead author Vilma Cokkinides, PhD, American Cancer Society strategic director of risk factors and screening. “We could eliminate much of the suffering and death from cancer with better, more systematic efforts to reduce tobacco use, improve nutrition and opportunities for physical activity, and expand the use of those screening tests that are proven effective.”

Some highlights from this year’s report:

Tobacco use

  • The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2013, 174,100 cancer deaths will be caused by tobacco use.
  • The report notes that 19% of adults smoked cigarettes in 2011, down from 20.9% in 2005.
  • Smoking among high school students dropped to a new low of 18.1% in 2011.
  • Apart from cigarettes, the most commonly used tobacco products among high school students in 2011 were cigars (13.1%) and smokeless tobacco (7.7%).
  • In part as a response to increasing smoke-free environments, the tobacco industry ramped up marketing expenditures on smokeless tobacco products nearly 120% between 2005 and 2008, potentially expanding the tobacco market.

Obesity, physical activity, and nutrition

  • After tobacco use, the major risk factors for cancer are obesity, lack of exercise, and poor eating habits. The American Cancer Society Guidelines on Nutrition and Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention stress the importance of public, private, and community organizations working together to encourage healthy eating and physical activity levels. That can include offering healthier food choices in schools, worksites, and communities, and providing safe, enjoyable, and accessible environments for physical activity in schools and worksites, and for transportation and recreation in communities.
  • Approximately one-fourth to one-third of the 1.6 million new cancer cases expected to occur in 2013 can be attributed to poor nutrition, physical inactivity, overweight, and obesity.
  • Currently, an estimated 18.4% of adolescents and 35.7% of adults are obese. Increasing rates of obesity observed since the early 1980s appear to have slowed or leveled off since 2003.
  • In 2011, more than 20% of people in all states were obese, with the highest prevalence in Mississippi (35%) and lowest in Colorado (20.8%).

Screenings and vaccinations

  • Getting recommended screenings and vaccinations can prevent some types of cancer. Screening can also help detect cancer at an earlier stage when it’s easier to treat. However, the report says that many Americans don’t get all the screenings they should, especially those who are uninsured or under-insured, recent immigrants, and those with low education and low socioeconomic status.
  • In 2010, 83% of adult women reported having a Pap test in the past 3 years. But women who were uninsured, recent immigrants and those with low education were much less likely to have the test.
  • Mammography usage has not increased since 2000. In 2010, 66.5% of women 40 years of age and older reported getting a mammogram in the past 2 years. Only 31.5% of women without health insurance were screened.
  • In 2010, 59.1% of Americans 50 years of age and older were up to date on recommended colon cancer screenings. Rates were substantially lower in those with lower socioeconomic status and those without health insurance.
  • The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine is recommended for adolescent girls to prevent most types of cervical cancer. The number of 13- to 17-year-old girls who got the first shot in the 3-shot series increased from 25% in 2007 to 53% in 2011. More than 70% of those who started the series got all 3 shots.

Ultraviolet radiation and skin cancer

  • People who use indoor tanning booths during their teens and 20s increase their risk of melanoma by 75%.
  • Thirty-three states have enacted legislation restricting minors’ access to indoor tanning facilities.

The American Cancer Society has published the CPED report every year since 1992 as a resource to strengthen cancer prevention and early detection efforts at the local, state, and national levels.

Reviewed by: Members of the ACS Medical Content Staff


ACS News Center stories are provided as a source of cancer-related news and are not intended to be used as press releases. For reprint requests, please contact permissionrequest@cancer.org.

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