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February 4, 2014 | 3 minute read

Today is World Cancer Day

AICR Fights “Myth-Information”
with New Estimates on Cancer Preventability

Today, February 4th, is World Cancer Day, a global event devoted to dispelling cancer myths and improving general knowledge about the disease. The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is uniting with World Cancer Research Fund International and other organizations to raise awareness that approximately one-third of cases of the most common cancers in the U.S. – over 374,000 cases every year – could be prevented just by making changes to our diet, weight and physical activity.

Because World Cancer Day kicks off Cancer Prevention Month in the US, AICR is also releasing a Cancer Prevention Month infographic that contains new estimates of how many cases of specific cancers like breast, colorectal, prostate and stomach could be prevented through diet, weight and physical activity.

These efforts come at a time when fewer than half of Americans (41%) are aware that body weight affects people’s risk of getting cancer, and just over one in six (17%) mistakenly believe that they can do nothing to lower their risk, according to a new survey commissioned by AICR to mark World Cancer Day.

Hundreds of Thousands of Cancers Don’t Have to Happen

AICR’s research shows that Americans can cut their cancer risk by:

  1. Keeping your weight at a healthy level. Apart from not smoking, avoiding obesity is the most important thing you can do to lower your cancer risk.
  2. Eating a healthy diet. Specifically, one that highlights a variety of plant foods (vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans) limits alcohol and red meat, and cuts out processed meat.
  3. Being physically active for 30 minutes a day. Being active helps the body regulate hormones that might otherwise spur the cancer process and helps prevent obesity, which itself is a cause of many cancers.

Throughout the month of February, AICR will take to social media to combat misinformation about cancer and share the evidence-based, empowering message that many cancers don’t have to happen with its Cancer Prevention: DO SOMETHING campaign.

Survey Reveals Alarming Lack of Awareness

The online survey commissioned by AICR reveals that too many Americans still cling to the myth that they are powerless before cancer. The survey asked respondents to agree or disagree with several statements about cancer risk, including:

  1. “People can’t do anything to change their risk of getting cancer.”
    Astonishingly, over one in six Americans agreed with this cancer myth (17%) and another 24% could not decide whether to agree or disagree.
  2. “Diet affects people’s risk of getting cancer.”
    Just over half of Americans surveyed (58%) knew that they can indeed cut cancer risk with a healthy diet, but far too many either disagreed (11%) or could not make up their minds (31%).
  3. “Body weight affects people’s risk of getting cancer.”
    Awareness of this link is still alarmingly low: less that half (41%) of those surveyed knew that body weight has an impact on cancer risk. One in 5 (20%) disagreed, while a whopping 38% could not make up their mind.
  4. “How active someone is affects their risk of getting cancer.”
    Of the three steps to lower cancer risk, awareness of physical activity’s protective power was lowest, with only 39% of Americans understanding its role. Almost 1 in 4 Americans (23%) disagreed, while another 39% neither agreed nor disagreed.

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