Following on the news of the drop in cancer deaths for the second consecutive year, the American Cancer Society is launching the Great American Health Challenge to educate and motivate Americans to take action to reduce their cancer risk.
Many Americans are concerned about potentially developing cancer, but in fact, at least 50 percent of cancer deaths could be prevented through healthy lifestyle factors. Research indicates that cutting cancer death rates by 50 percent nationally would save about 280,000 lives every year in the United States.
"A recent American Cancer Society survey found that 59 percent of adult Americans are concerned personally about getting cancer," said Richard C. Wender, MD, president, American Cancer Society Board of Directors. "We're launching the Great American Health Challenge to provide tools and support to make it easier for people to take steps that could reduce their cancer risk."
The Great American Health Challenge, a year-long program, encourages Americans to make a commitment to take the following actions to reduce their cancer risk, or detect cancer when it is most treatable:
· Check - Find out which cancer screening tests are appropriate based on age and family history, and discuss these with your doctor. Screening can prevent cancer or detect it at its earliest, most treatable stage.
· Move - Be physically active most days of the week; strive for at least 30 minutes of exercise - over and above your usual activities - on five or more days.
· Nourish - Aim for a healthy body weight and eat a well-balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and limit consumption of red meats, especially high fat and processed meats. In August, participate in the Great American Eat Right Challenge.
· Quit - Stop smoking, or join the fight against tobacco as an advocate for smoke-free communities.
Consumer surveys indicate that the timing is right to encourage Americans to participate in the Great American Health Challenge. When questioned about four of the behaviors promoted as part of the Great American Health Challenge, (not smoking, getting regular cancer screenings, and meeting Society guidelines for fruit and vegetable consumption and physical activity), 22 percent of respondents meet three of the four recommendations, fifty-nine percent meet two out of the four recommendations, and only four percent meet all four recommendations.
"We are encouraged that many Americans already are engaging in some of the key healthy behaviors that we know can make a difference," said Dr. Wender. "There is still progress to be made in cancer prevention and early detection, and the Great American Health Challenge is one way the Society is working to help educate people about what they can do to reduce their risk of cancer."
Screening can detect cancers of the breast, colon, rectum, cervix, prostate, oral cavity, and skin at early stages, when treatment is more likely to be successful. In addition, tests for cervical and colorectal cancer may detect changes in cells before they become cancerous. The five-year survival rate for cancers that can be prevented or detected earlier by screening is about 86 percent, a percentage which reflects real reductions in cancer deaths as well as earlier diagnosis because of screening.
It is estimated that in 2007 about 168,000 cancer deaths will be caused by tobacco, and scientific evidence suggests that about one-third of the cancer deaths that occur in the U.S. each year are due to nutrition and physical activity factors, including excess weight. For the majority of Americans who do not use tobacco, dietary choices and physical activity are the most important modifiable factors in cancer risk.
Source: American Cancer Society