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Spotlight on Obesity continued...

Being morbidly obese -- having a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or more or being 100 pounds or more overweight -- has been shown to double a woman's risk of dying from breast cancer. It is associated with an even greater increase in death risk from less common cancers like those of the cervix, kidney, and uterus. The BMI measurement is one of the most accurate ways to determine whether an adult is overweight.

Among both sexes, obesity is linked to an increase in deaths due to colorectal cancer. And studies suggest that a man's risk of dying from liver cancer is more than quadrupled if he is obese.

Lost Opportunities

The decline in smoking among teens over just the last few years is one of the most promising trends outlined in the report. Smoking rates among white females, for example, dropped to 31% in 2001 from 39% just three years earlier. Similar declines were seen for males and across all racial groups.

The decline coincided with a ban on cigarette promotions targeting young people, which was part of the landmark 1998 tobacco settlement. The banishment of Joe Camel and the Marlboro Man from rock concerts and other teen-populated venues is considered a major success in terms of impact on smoking. But the promise of the $206 billion, 25-year settlement has yet to be fulfilled in other ways, ACS officials say.

The windfall was originally intended to go toward health care and tobacco control efforts. But only about half of the money paid out in 2001 went to health care and just 6% was spent on programs to prevent smoking and help people quit.

"To say this is disappointing is a huge understatement," says ACS director of cancer science and trends Thomas Glynn, MD. "This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that was handed to the states and the American people on a silver platter. Instead of reducing the burden of tobacco use for generations to come, much of this money is being squandered."

The report calls on lawmakers to raise taxes on tobacco and increase funds for advertising aimed at reducing teen smoking and cessation programs targeting adults.

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