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Top 2014 Cancer Prevention Stories (and how they affect you)

From sitting too much to the latest findings on obesity, here's this year's seven most popular stories in cancer prevention and survivorship.

1.  List of (preventable) obesity-related cancers grows

This year, two new cancers joined a growing list of cancers whose risk is increased by carrying excess body fat. Two reports from our ongoing, systematic review of global cancer research show that ovarian cancer and advanced prostate cancers now link to excess body fat. That list includes post-menopausal breast cancer, colorectal cancer, endometrial cancer, esophageal cancer, kidney cancer, gallbladder cancer and pancreatic cancer.

In March, the report on ovarian cancer found that excess body fat plays a role in developing this deadly cancer. Last month, the CUP report found similar findings for advanced prostate cancers, which are often fatal.

Taken together, being overweight or obese increases the risk of approximately 122,000 cancer cases the year. Aside from not smoking, being a healthy weight is now the single most important thing you can do to prevent cancer.

Find out more about the weight-cancer link and what your BMI means for your risk.

2. Healthy habits may improve survival of breast cancer survivors

In October, a CUP report identified potential links between diet, weight and physical activity and longer survival for women diagnosed with breast cancer. The report found indications of links between survival and: A healthy body weight; Being physically active; Eating foods containing fiber and soy; and A lower intake of fat, particularly saturated fat.

The report supports AICR’s recommendations that eating a plant-based diet, keeping to a healthy weight and getting regular physical activity remain the best strategies for all cancer survivors to follow. The report concludes, however, that currently available scientific evidence is still not strong enough to give concrete recommendations specifically for breast cancer survivors.

For cancer patients and survivors, we have a free toolkit that includes resources as well as physical activity and diet tips. Read CancerResource: Living with Cancer.

3. Soy foods don't increase cancer risk

soySoy foods are among the top foods we get asked about the most when it comes to breast cancer, so it wasn't that surprising that our updated Foods that Fight Cancer on Soy was also one of the most viewed.

While there's still a lot to learn, there is now a clear and consistent body of research suggesting soy foods consumed in moderate amounts do not increase risk of breast cancer - or any cancer. Some studies even suggest they may improve survival for breast cancer survivors (see above).

Read more about the soy-cancer research, along with cooking tips and nutrition information in AICR's Foods that Fight Cancer: Soy.

4. Awareness on activity linking to cancer risk remains low

Barely a third of Americans knew physical activity reduces the risk of cancer, according to an AICR survey conducted back in February. Of the three steps to lower cancer risk, awareness of physical activity’s protective power was lowest. After hearing the statement, How active someone is affects their risk of getting cancer - only 39% of Americans agreed with this statement. Almost 1 in 4 Americans (23%) disagreed, while another 39% neither agreed nor disagreed.

The awareness finding was one of our most shared surveys, suggesting that people want to understand the research and spread the word. AICR recommends being active for at least 30 minutes daily to reduce cancer risk. And avoiding sedentary habits, such as sitting around watching television too much for too long.

Activity by itself links to reduced risk of several cancers, and it also can play a role in a healthy weight.

Are you active enough? Take our quiz and then find some simple ways to get started being more active.

5. Brussels Beat Brownies

March marked our 500th issue of Health-e-Recipe and to mark the occasion, we asked readers and food enthusiasts to vote for their favorite. And they did - in droves. The Champion round pitted Brussels Sprouts against our favorite brownies (black bean) and it was a narrow victory for the cruciferous family.

Because research shows that what you eat plays a pivotal role in lowering cancer risk, AICR takes a lot of time to create and share healthy recipes. From our 1980s paper newsletter to our emailed version today, all our recipes are developed to put our evidence-based nutrition guidelines onto your plate.

Here's the winning recipe and the runner-up: you be the judge.

Brussels Sprout Slaw with Cranberries and Walnuts versus Black Bean Brownies

6. Following AICR Recommendations Lengthens Survival, Helps Childhood Cancer Survivors

This year added new studies conducted by independent researchers suggesting that following AICR Recommendations for Cancer Prevention can cut cancer risk, helps survivors, and protects against other chronic diseases as well.

One new study found that adult survivors of childhood cancers who most followed AICR Recommendations for Cancer Prevention cut their risk of developing metabolic syndrome, a group of risk factors that raises the risk for heart disease and other health problems. Those who followed three or fewer of the recommendations had more than double the risk of metabolic syndrome, even decades after their cancer diagnosis.

Another study suggested that healthy people who follow at least five of AICR’s Recommendations have a lower risk of dying from cancer by more than half compared to those who don’t follow any. Risk was lower with meeting even one recommendation, getting lower for each additional recommendation followed.

Here's more on these studies.

7. Sitting around too much may increase cancer risk

Being inactive as a cancer risk is a growing area of research, with several studies linking it to increased risk of diabetes, obesity and cancer. Looking at all the research together, one study that came out in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found that being too sedentary – whether at work or home – increases the risk of three cancers: colon, endometrial, and lung.

Each two-hour per day increase in sitting time linked to a modest but increased risk of cancers of the colon and endometrium. And AICR research currently shows that being moderately active at least 30 minutes a day reduces the risk of endometrial, postmenopausal breast and colorectal cancers. The evidence suggests that moving more throughout the day may make a difference for cancer risk, along with improving overall health. (See our Make Time for Break Time infographic.)

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Ann Wrenshall Worley

Ann Wrenshall Worley

Assistant Director of Planned Giving

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