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Cancer Health Center

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Most Cancer Deaths Preventable

States Ranked on Avoidable Cancer Risks
WebMD Health News

March 31, 2005 -- Most cancer deaths can be avoided and some states are doing better than others, the American Cancer Society says.

Cancer is now the leading cause of death for people under 85, but cancer experts say this is largely preventable.

It's no secret. Here's how:

  • Don't smoke. If you do smoke, quit.
  • Keep your weight down. If you're overweight or obese, lose some weight and keep it off.
  • Get plenty of exercise.
  • Eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables every day.
  • Stay out of the sun. Use protective clothing and sunscreen when you are outdoors.
  • Get recommended cancer screening tests.

So how are we doing? Not nearly as well as we should, according to today's release of the American Cancer Society's Cancer Prevention & Early Detection Facts & Figures 2005.

Some things are getting better. For example, Americans smoke less than ever before -- although too many of us still smoke. And some things are getting worse. For example, we're setting new records for being overweight and out of shape.

Our Kids' Cancer Risks

Much of our lifetime cancer risk comes from our childhood behavior. Here's how our kids are doing:

  • Tobacco smoking is way down since peaking in 1997, when 36% of children and teens smoked. But more than one in five of our kids still smokes cigarettes.
  • Children and teens are more overweight than ever. From 1980 to 2002, overweight and obesity doubled among kids aged 6 to 11 -- from 7% to 16% of kids. And it tripled among kids aged 12-19 -- from 5% to 16% of teens.
  • 38% of high school students watch three or more hours of television every day.
  • Only 28% of kids have daily physical education classes.
  • Kids walk 60% less than they did in 1977.
  • Only 15% of high school students use sunscreen when in the sun for more than an hour.

Adult Cancer Risks

As adults, there's still much we can do to cut our cancer risk. Here's how we're doing:

  • More than one in four men and more than one in five women still smoke cigarettes.
  • Nearly two-thirds of U.S. adults are overweight. That includes the 30% of us who are obese.
  • Not quite half of U.S. adults get enough exercise.
  • Only about one in four U.S. adults eats five or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day.
  • The American Cancer Society recommends regular mammograms for all women over 40. Nearly 55% of U.S. women do this.
  • 82% of American women over 18 report getting a recommended Pap smear.
  • 39% of Americans get recommended colorectal cancer screening beginning at age 50.

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