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Women's Health

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Women's Cancer Prevention Falls Short

Women Could Be Doing More to Lower Their Cancer Risk, Poll Shows
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Oct. 2, 2007 -- U.S. women could stand to upgrade their cancer prevention efforts, a new poll shows.

The poll, which included 800 women, comes from the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and Prevention magazine.

"Our findings should serve as a wake-up call to women," Jennifer Irvine Vidrine, PhD, assistant professor in the health disparities research department at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, says in a news release.

"As the divide between knowing and doing becomes clear, women can be more vigilant in taking their cancer prevention behaviors to a higher level of compliance," Irvine Vidrine says.

(Are you taking steps toward cancer prevention? If not, what’s stopping you? Discuss it on WebMD's Women’s Health: Friends Talking message board.)

Women's Cancer Poll

The women took the telephone poll, which was conducted by Gelb Consulting, in May.

The results show that most women believe a healthy diet and regular exercise helps prevent cancer, and 81% say they have a healthy diet and 73% say they get regular exercise.

But a closer look shows room for improvement in meeting diet and exercise recommendations. For instance:

  • Only 31% eat enough fruit (2 servings per day)
  • Only 12% eat enough veggies per day (3 servings per day)
  • Less than a third (32%) exercise for at least 150 minutes per week

Of course, diet and exercise don't guarantee cancer prevention. It's about risk reduction, not risk elimination. A complex mix of genetic and environmental factors affects a person's odds of developing cancer.

It's not that women got a poor report card across the board.

For instance, more than nine out of 10 of women aged 40 and older say they had ever gotten a mammogram and most had done so within the past two years.

But only 57% of women aged 50 and older said they had gotten a colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy, which are tests to screen for colon cancer and precancerous colon growths.

Women who highly rated their social status (a mix of professional, financial, and community standing) were more likely to say they'd gotten a mammogram, exercise regularly, and eat the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables.

Women can check with their doctor to find out what cancer screening tests they need and to get medical advice about diet and exercise.

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