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Strides Made in Preventing Cancer

American Cancer Society looked at smoking, obesity, disease screening, tanning and more

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"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.

"We're making progress with smoking, but it took years of education and changes in indoor environments that made it harder to smoke. Now, the message is that staying lean will lead to healthier outcomes," Bender said.

"I think this report shows that people are becoming more and more aware that cancer doesn't have to happen all the time," she noted. "There are things we can do to reduce our risk."

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