Communities Key to Lowering Cancer Risk

New guidelines underscore local government's role in providing healthy diet and exercise

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SUNDAY, Oct. 15, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Weight control, exercise, a healthy diet high in plant-based foods, and limited alcohol consumption are the major points in the updated Nutrition and Physical Activity Guidelines for Cancer Prevention, recently released by the American Cancer Association.

In addition, the guidelines emphasize the importance of community efforts, noting that a supportive social environment is vital in making it possible for people at all levels of society to have the opportunity to choose behaviors that reduce their cancer risk.

According to the guidelines, public, private, and community organizations should work to increase access to healthy foods in schools, workplaces, and communities and to provide safe, enjoyable and accessible environments for physical activity in schools and for transportation and recreation in communities.

"For years, we've told people what habits to adopt to lower their cancer risk, but it has become increasingly clear we need to create environments that make it easier to make healthy choices," report co-author Colleen Doyle, director of nutrition and physical activity for the American Cancer Society, said in a prepared statement.

"These guidelines underscore what communities can and should be doing to make these health habits achievable. Just as excise taxes and smoke-free laws have been critical to reducing tobacco's cancer toll, community action is essential to create a social environment that promotes healthy food choices and physical activity," Doyle said.

Recent evidence shows that, for non-smokers, weight control, physical activity, and dietary choices are the most important modifiable cancer risk factors, the American Cancer Society said.

A third of the more than 500,000 cancer deaths in the United States each year are attributable to poor diet and physical activity habits. That's about the same portion as cancer deaths caused by tobacco.

The guidelines were published in the September/October issue of CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.

More information

The American Cancer Society has more about cancer prevention.

SOURCE: American Cancer Society, news release, September 2006


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