Cost, Time Perceived as Key Obstacles to Cancer-Protective Lifestyle

pie chart simple diet

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.

pie chartAmong those who say their diets are not "very healthy"

  • Thirty-five percent of Americans said the most important factor keeping them from eating better was cost.
  • The second most common response was "I have not felt the need to eat healthier," which was chosen by 17 percent of those asked.
  • A striking gender split emerged among those who did not feel the need to eat healthier: only 10 percent of women who answered this question said they felt no need to eat healthier, compared to 25 percent of men.

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:

  • Twenty-five percent of respondents said "I don't have the time" was the most important reason they weren't more active.
  • Another 13 percent said, "It is too difficult."

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:

  • Just over 1 in 5 Americans say the most important factor stopping them from getting to a healthy weight is that "it is too difficult."
  • Another 13 percent say they don't have the time.
  • Almost 1 in 10 Americans who say they are overweight or obese say it costs too much or they don't know how to start (9 percent and 8 percent, respectively).

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. 

Signup for CRU
       Please leave this field empty

More From This Issue

    Make an Impact

    Your gift provides resources for cancer patients and survivors and helps fund cancer research.

    Give Now »

    Published on February 10, 2016

    facebook twitter pinterest aicr blog