American Cancer Society Release: Few Americans Know Connection Between Excess Weight And Cancer Risk, Compared To Heart Disease Or Diabetes, New Nationwide Survey Finds

ATLANTA, May 16 /PRNewswire/ -- For anyone who needs one more reason to tip the scale toward a healthier lifestyle, the American Cancer Society has it: being overweight is a risk factor for many forms of cancer.

A new nationwide survey(1) commissioned by the American Cancer Society finds that while most Americans (83 percent) recognize the link of being overweight to heart disease and many (57 percent) know the link to diabetes, far fewer (eight percent) understand there is a connection between being overweight and cancer risk. Only 17 percent of the survey respondents said they knew their body mass index (BMI) score, compared to 39 percent who said they knew their cholesterol number, 63 percent their blood type, and 65 percent who knew the number of judges on American Idol.

The Society is launching the Great American Eat Right Challenge ( ) on May 18 to build awareness of the link between being overweight and cancer risk, and to provide practical advice and personalized tips on adopting healthy eating habits, like portion control, as a way to help maintain a healthy weight and reduce cancer risk. At the Web site, consumers will also find interactive tools and giveaways. The promotion is sponsored by Weight Watchers International, Inc.; the Grain Foods Foundation; and Quest Diagnostics, Incorporated.

"While the problem of overweight and obesity in the United States has received much greater attention in recent years, cancer risk has often been missing from that conversation," said Carolyn D. Runowicz, MD, the Society's president. "Given what we know about the impact of excess weight on cancer risk, and given the trends on weight status in this country, we want people to be aware that their weight could be putting them at risk for cancer."

Being overweight is a risk factor for many forms of cancer, including breast cancer among post-menopausal women and colorectal cancer. It is estimated that about one-third of the 564,830 cancer deaths that are expected to occur in the United States in 2006 will be attributable to poor nutrition, physical inactivity, and being overweight or obese. Nearly two-thirds of Americans are overweight, including 30 percent who are obese. (Source of statistics: Cancer Facts & Figures Prevention & Early Detection 2006, American Cancer Society.)

"The most effective ways to reduce cancer risk are by maintaining a healthy weight, being physically active, eating a healthy diet and not smoking," Runowicz said. "As many as one-third of all cancer deaths could be prevented -- not through complicated procedures or expensive medications -- but through simple nutrition, physical activity and lifestyle choices that we all make day in and day out."

Recognizing that some people describe a "struggle" with trying to eat right and manage their weight, the Society recommends portion control as a good first step. "Our message is moderation, not deprivation," Runowicz said. "We're not saying to completely cut out your favorite foods. We're saying people should cut them down to size -- manage how much they eat. Portion control is a good first step in eating right and maintaining a healthy weight."

The Society's survey found that a majority of Americans -- 56 percent -- do indeed find one food or type of food irresistible. The leading cravings were: chocolate (20 percent); pizza/pasta/Italian food (14 percent); cookies/cakes/muffins (10 percent); hamburgers/ beef/meat (9 percent); and fish/shellfish/seafood (9 percent). While chocolate ranked No. 1 in the South(2), West(3), and North Central(4) regions of the U.S., pasta/pizza/Italian food ranked No. 1 and chocolate ranked No. 5 in the Northeast(5).

The Society's Great American Eat Right Challenge Web site page, , will provide interactive tips and tools to help people take steps toward better health through healthier diets and habits like portion control. In addition to information about how to fit more nutrient-packed fruits, vegetables, and whole grains into each day, the site features a healthy eating quiz, calorie counter, and healthy recipes. Visitors can also check their body mass index (BMI) to determine whether or not they are at a healthy weight -- and can get some practical tips for achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. The first 50,000 visitors to the Eat Right Web site can register to receive a free "Do Something Great!" token that can be worn as a reminder to adopt healthy eating habits.

Throughout the year, the Society will help people learn about other things they can do to maintain a healthy weight and reduce cancer risk. People without online access can call the Society's toll-free number at 1-800-ACS-2345 to receive information on nutrition and physical activity and the Great American Eat Right Challenge.

The Great American Eat Right Challenge (formerly known as the Great American Weigh-In) is the latest promotion in the American Cancer Society's "Great Americans" campaign and is part of an ongoing year-round program of prevention and early detection. The Great American Health Check(SM) in January, Great American Eat Right Challenge in May, and the Great American Smokeout(R) in November empower Americans to take control of their health and lower their risk of cancer.

The American Cancer Society is dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem by saving lives, diminishing suffering and preventing cancer through research, education, advocacy, and service. Founded in 1913 and with national headquarters in Atlanta, the Society has 13 regional Divisions and local offices in 3,400 communities, involving millions of volunteers across the United States. For more information anytime, call toll free 1-800-ACS-2345 or visit .

(1) Survey was conducted for the American Cancer Society using Opinion Research Corporation's CARAVAN(R) National Omnibus. Telephone interviews were conducted from March 30 -- April 3, 2006 among 2,070 adults 18 years of age and older. Margin of error +/- 2.2 percent. (2) Includes DE, MD, DC, VA, WV, NC, SC, GA, FL, KY, TN, AL, MS, AR, LA, OK, TX (3) Includes MT, ID, WY, CO, NM, AZ, UT, NV, WA, OR, CA (4) Includes OH, IN, IL, MI, WI, MN, IA, MO, ND, SD, NE, KS (5) Includes ME, NH, VT, MA, RI, CT, NY, NJ, PA

American Cancer Society

CONTACT: Maria Droumbanis, +1-202-973-1360,,for the American Cancer Society

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