Much of the suffering and death from cancer could be prevented by more systematic efforts to reduce tobacco use and obesity, improve diet, and increase physical activity and the use of established screening tests, according to the just-released Cancer Prevention & Early Detection Facts & Figures 2017-2018.
While there have been improvements in some areas of cancer prevention and early detection, the use of potentially lifesaving measures is suboptimal and strongly influenced by individual behaviors, as well as social, economic, and public policy factors, the Society's report says.
Since 1992, the American Cancer Society has published Cancer Prevention & Early Detection Facts & Figures as a resource to strengthen cancer prevention and early detection efforts at the local, state, and national levels. Published every two years, the report assesses current prevalence of cancer risk factors and prevention measures, an important component of monitoring progress and strengthening cancer prevention and early detection efforts.
The World Cancer Research Fund estimates that about 20% of all cancers in the U.S. can be attributed to a combination of overweight and obesity, poor nutrition, excess alcohol consumption, and insufficient physical activity. These health behaviors are modifiable risk factors, and if changed, can reduce cancer risk. "Thus, for the 85% of U.S. adults who do not smoke cigarettes, the most important ways to reduce cancer risk are: maintaining a healthy body weight, engaging in regular physical activity, adhering to a healthful diet, and avoiding or limiting alcohol consumption," the report says.
Highlights from the 2017-2018 report:
Overweight and Obesity, Physical Activity, and Nutrition
- About 7 out of 10 adults are overweight or obese; 38% are obese (men: 35%, women: 40%). The prevalence of obesity among women continues to rise, while it appears to have stabilized among men in recent years.
- The prevalence of obesity tripled between 1976 and 2002, among adolescents (ages 12-19 years) and is currently about 21%, unchanged in recent years.
- In 2015, about 50% of adults reported meeting recommended levels of aerobic physical activity. An estimated 27% of high school students met recommended levels of physical activity.
- In 2015, only 29% of adults reported eating two or more servings of fruit and 16% reported eating three or more servings of vegetables per day. About one in three (32%) high school students consumed fruit two or more times per day and 15% consumed vegetables three or more times per day.
- About 28% of adults reported excessive alcohol consumption, according to 2011-2014 data.
Ultraviolet Radiation and Skin Cancer
- Only 13% of adults reported wearing a long-sleeved shirt and only 15% reported wearing a wide-brimmed hat always or most of the time when outside on a warm, sunny day for more than an hour.
- Among U.S. high school students, 56% (girls: 60%, boys: 52%) reported having had a sunburn in the past year.
- In 2015, approximately 4% of adults reported using an indoor tanning device in the past year; use was higher among women (6%) than men (2%) and those living in the Midwest (6%) compared to other regions.
- The use of indoor tanning devices among female high school students appears to have declined in recent years from 25% in 2009 to 11% in 2015. However, only 13 states and the District of Columbia have a law prohibiting indoor tanning for minors without exemptions as of January 1, 2017.
- Though HPV vaccination rates have increased in recent years, uptake lags behind other vaccines. In 2015, about 52% of girls and 39% of boys completed two or more doses.
- In 2015, 50% of women 40 years of age and older reported having a mammogram within the past year, and 64% reported having one within the past two years. The lowest prevalence of mammography use in the past two years occurred among uninsured women (31%).
- In 2015, 81% of women 21-65 years of age had received a Pap test in the past three years, with lowest use among women who are uninsured (61%) and recent immigrants (68%).
- In 2015, 63% of adults 50 years of age and older reported having either an FOBT/FIT within the past year or sigmoidoscopy within the past five years or colonoscopy within the past 10 years. Prevalence was lowest among uninsured individuals (25%) and recent immigrants (34%).
"While some measures of cancer prevention and early detection have improved over time, others have either stabilized or worsened," said Ann Goding Sauer MSPH, lead author of the report. "For example, cigarette smoking among U.S. adults has dropped to 15% but remains at the level of the 1970s in some geographic areas and population groups. The prevalence of obesity among both adults and youth remains high, particularly among black women.
"The bottom line is that despite improvements in some areas of cancer prevention and early detection, systematic efforts to further reduce the suffering and death from cancer are needed," Ann said.