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Cancer Health Center

Strides Made in Preventing Cancer

American Cancer Society looked at smoking, obesity, disease screening, tanning and more
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Another area where industry is suspected of luring in young people is the indoor tanning industry.

"The industry makes young people believe that indoor tanning is safer than outdoors. The image is very strong, and the most vulnerable populations are young women, but we're beginning to address this through access restriction policies and laws," Cokkinides said.

Thirty-three states have enacted legislation that restricts minors' access to tanning facilities, according to the report. Using a tanning booth during your teens and 20s can increase your melanoma risk by 75 percent.

The report also found increasing numbers of young women getting vaccinated with the HPV vaccine, which can prevent many cervical cancers. Rates of mammograms to screen for breast cancer remained relatively stable. Slightly more than four out of five women received Pap screening according to the recommendations, with the exception of women without insurance and those with low education. Colorectal cancer screening rates were also lower in people without insurance.

"There's hope that the Affordable Care Act will help improve access, especially for those without insurance, but it's really going to depend on the state-by-state implementation of the act," Cokkinides explained.

The report also looked at obesity, nutrition and physical inactivity. All of these factors can affect cancer risk. The rise in obesity appears to have slowed down, and possibly even plateaued. However, about 36 percent of adults and 18 percent of teens are already obese. The prevalence of obesity varies widely by state, with Mississippi having the highest rate at 35 percent. The lowest was Colorado at about 21 percent, according to the report.

One expert discussed the obesity-cancer connection.

"Over 116,000 cancers can be prevented every year if more Americans stay lean. It's not a silver bullet, but preventing obesity can help prevent cancer," said Alice Bender, nutrition communications manager at the American Institute for Cancer Research.

Bender said that right now, only about half of Americans are aware of the link between obesity and cancer. There are seven cancers that have good evidence linking them to obesity.

And, a healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables can decrease the risk of cancer, as can regular physical activity, according to Bender.

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