Skip to content

    Cancer Health Center

    Font Size

    Cancer Deaths Continue to Fall

    Obesity, Inactivity Contribute to Cancer Incidence, Deaths

    Melanoma an 'Emerging Epidemic’

    Plescia says one particularly concerning trend is the increased incidence of the deadly skin cancer melanoma.

    He notes that since 1999, melanoma rates have risen by about 2.5% annually in women and 2.3% in men.

    “We see this as an emerging epidemic,” he says, adding that increased efforts to get people to use sunscreen and avoid tanning beds could have a major impact on the cancer.

    Obesity, Inactivity, and Cancer

    For more than three decades, obesity, inactivity, and poor diet have been second only to tobacco as preventable causes of disease and death in the U.S., but tobacco use has declined dramatically since the 1960s, while obesity rates have doubled.

    “If we don’t do anything about this, we can expect to see large increases in cancer incidence and cancer deaths in the near future,” says American Cancer Society vice president of surveillance research Ahmedin Jemal, PhD.

    Two out of three adults in the U.S. and one in three children are overweight or obese.

    The death rates for two of the cancers associated with obesity -- pancreatic and cancer of the uterus -- have gone up. In addition, the incidence of several cancers associated with obesity, including pancreatic, kidney, esophageal, and uterine, is on the rise.

    Rachel Ballard-Barbash, MD, MPH, of the National Cancer Institute, agrees that obesity and inactivity are among the most significant modifiable risk factors for cancer among people who do not smoke.

    A report from the International Agency for Research on Cancer found that between a quarter and a third of common cancers in the U.S. and other industrialized countries are caused by the joint effects of obesity and sedentary lifestyle.

    Ballard-Barbash says just as public health efforts aimed at tobacco use focused on changing the environment to help people stop smoking, efforts to address obesity should include promoting changes in communities to help people make the right food choices and stay active.

    1 | 2

    Today on WebMD

    man holding lung xray
    What you need to know.
    stem cells
    How they work for blood cancers.
    woman wearing pink ribbon
    Separate fact from fiction.
    Colorectal cancer cells
    Symptoms, screening tests, and more.
    Jennifer Goodman Linn self-portrait
    what is your cancer risk
    colorectal cancer treatment advances
    breast cancer overview slideshow
    prostate cancer overview
    lung cancer overview slideshow
    ovarian cancer overview slideshow
    Actor Michael Douglas