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World Cancer Day Calls for ‘Personal and Community Responsibility’

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Making good personal and collective lifestyle decisions can significantly reduce the cancer risk of Americans, said a new report released on World Cancer Day, Feb. 4, 2011, by the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) and Work Cancer Research Fund (WCRF).

The report concluded that if Americans simply followed the recommended guidelines of eating a varied and healthy diet, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight and limiting their alcohol consumption, as many as 340,000 new cancer cases could be prevented each year, including some common cancers.

That boils down to 38 percent fewer breast cancers, 45 percent less colon cancers and the number of stomach cancers would nearly be cut in half by 47 percent.

There is also consistently convincing evidence that not using tobacco, avoiding excessive sun exposure, and protecting against cancer-causing infections such as the human papillomavirus or HPV, would further reduce cancer risk in the United States and around the world.

Cancer was once considered to be a “Western” disease, but not anymore. Just a few decades ago, affluent industrialized countries had a greater cancer burden because tobacco use began early and reached an epidemic, occupational carcinogens were used without safeguards and the Western lifestyle and diet—characterized by eating food high in calories, fat, refined carbohydrates and meat, along with engaging in low physical activity—became the societal norm.

Globally, the Western diet is associated with a multitude of disease conditions, including obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, arterial hypertension and many types of cancer.

Now with increasing wealth and industrialization in developing countries, the disease has emerged as a major public health problem there too, matching its effect in industrialized nations. Back in 2003, WHO warned when it released its landmark World Cancer Report, that if gone unchecked, global cancer rates would sharply increase – from 10 million new cases globally in 2000, to 15 million in 2020.

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