Smoking, Obesity Trends Affect Cancer Rates
April 28, 2004 -- Americans smoke less but weigh much more than
they did just a few years ago, and both trends will dramatically affect future
cancer rates, according to a report from the American Cancer Society (ACS).
The society's annual report on cancer prevention trends also
shows that screening rates have improved overall but still remain well below
targeted levels for many malignancies, most notably colorectal cancer.
ACS officials estimate that the death rate from cancer could be
cut in half if the prevention strategies now known to be effective were
followed. More than 180,000 cancer deaths each year can be linked to tobacco
use, and the report suggests that a third of all cancers are related to poor
nutrition, physical inactivity, being overweight, or other lifestyle
Among the report's highlights:
Smoking rates among high school students have dropped to the lowest levels
in almost a decade but remain high at roughly 29%.
- Among adults, roughly one in four men and one in five women still smoke,
but smoking rates across all education levels continue to decline.
- Almost 74% of women with health insurance aged 40 and over reported having
had a mammogram within the past two years, but only 40% of women without health
insurance and 41% of recent immigrants reported being screened.
- Colorectal cancer screening rates are rising but remain low. Although early
detection can boost survival from the cancer to more than 90%, fewer than half
of adults aged 50 and older are screened.
Spotlight on Obesity
While smoking and screening have long been on the ACS radar
screen, the focus on body weight and exercise in the 2004 report is somewhat
"We have known for a long time that obesity is strongly
linked to diabetes and heart disease, but it is really only recently that we
began to understand the important link between being overweight and cancer
risk," ACS director of surveillance research Elizabeth Ward, PhD, tells
Obesity has been linked to an increased risk of death from 11
different cancers in men and 12 in women. Almost 69% of the adults in the U.S.
are overweight, with 21% considered obese. Obesity rates among adults increased
by 75% between 1991 and 2001, with similar increases seen among children and
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.