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Cancer Health Center

Cancer Deaths Continue to Fall

Obesity, Inactivity Contribute to Cancer Incidence, Deaths
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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.

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