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ACS Report: Challenges Remain in Changing Behaviors to Reduce Cancer Risk

Group calls for coordinated efforts to close gaps (Apr. 11)

An annual report from the American Cancer Society (ACS) finds continuing challenges in changing behaviors and risk factors in order to reduce cancer morbidity and mortality. The report outlines the current prevalence of tobacco use, obesity, physical inactivity, and the use of established screening tests, and emphasizes that social, economic, and legislative factors profoundly influence the individual health behaviors that contribute to cancer risk.

Highlights of the new report include:

  • Cigarette smoking prevalence in U.S. adults declined from 21% to 19% between 2005 and 2011, with significant declines in both men and women, as well as in young adults, Hispanics, and Asians.
  • Partly 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.
  • An estimated 18% of adolescents and 36% of adults are obese.
  • In 2011, obesity prevalence exceeded 20% in all states and was highest in Mississippi (35%) and lowest in Colorado (21%).
  • Individuals 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 initiation of the HPV vaccination series among U.S. females 13 to 17 years of age increased from 25% in 2007 to 53% in 2011, with 71% of those who initiated vaccinations completing the entire three-dose series. Despite these improvements, HPV vaccine coverage among adolescent girls lags behind other recommended vaccines.
  • Mammography use has been relatively stable since 2000. In 2010, 67% of women 40 years of age and older reported getting a mammogram within the past 2 years; women who lack health insurance have the lowest use of mammograms (32%).

“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, the ACS’ 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.”

The ACS estimates that about 174,100 cancer deaths will be caused by tobacco use in 2013. In addition, approximately one-quarter 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.

Source: ACS; April 11, 2013.

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