Most Americans aren't making the kind of lifestyle choices that protect against cancer, citing cost, time and difficulty as the key obstacles, according to a new AICR survey released last week. The survey, Living For Lower Cancer Risk in the US 2016, was released in preparation for National Cancer Prevention Month in February. Americans cited cost as the main barrier to eating healthier diets, time as the main barrier to being more active, and difficulty as the main barrier to losing weight.
What's keeping Americans from eating healthier?
AICR recommends a plant-based diet in which meat and dairy take up one-third or less of the plate. But according to the survey, less than a quarter of Americans (23 percent) say they are currently following this meal model. Men are much less likely to eat a cancer-protective diet than women: only 18 percent met the "mostly plant-based" standard, compared to 28 percent of women.
More Time Needed for Activity
For cancer prevention, AICR recommends avoiding sedentary habits and getting at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity every day.
The AICR survey found that over 2 in 5 Americans (42 percent) said they are getting more than 30 minutes of activity per day. But according to the President's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, less than 5 percent of Americans are actually getting 30 minutes of physical activity every day.
Among those who say they were active less than 30 minutes daily:
A Stopping Point for Weight Loss: Too Difficult
Next to not smoking, being at a healthy weight is the single most important thing people can do to lower their cancer risk, as carrying excess body fat is a cause for ten different kinds of cancer. AICR recommends people be as lean as possible without becoming underweight. AICR estimates that being a healthy weight could prevent almost 122,000 cases of cancer in the US every year.
The survey found that half of Americans said they are either currently overweight (41 percent) or obese (9 percent). Forty-two percent of Americans said they are at a healthy weight. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese.
Among those who say they are overweight:
The Take-Home: Americans Need Help
AICR estimates that for the most common US cancers, about one third of the cases could be prevented with a healthy diet, weight and daily activity. For Cancer Prevention Month, AICR has launched a campaign to help the general public place recommendations for cancer prevention into daily actions.
"Americans need the kind of support that will help them eat healthy meals on a budget and fit more activity into their daily routine," said AICR Vice President for Programs Deirdre McGinley-Gieser.
Added AICR Head of Nutrition Programs Alice Bender, MS, RDN: "Losing weight and keeping it off is difficult, but there are research-based strategies than can help. Start with small steps that work for you and your family and over time you'll find these changes turn into healthy habits that help you feel better and have more energy."
Source: An American Institute for Cancer Research Survey Report. Living for Lower Cancer Risk in the US, 2016: Who Is, Who Isn’t — And Why They’re Not. (pdf) January 2016.
Published on February 10, 2016