WASHINGTON, DC -- Speaking at a press
conference at the AICR/WCRF International Research Conference on Food, Nutrition
and Cancer, Professor W.P.T. James, chairman of the International Obesity Task
Force, said, “We are used to
thinking about the obesity epidemic on one hand and the cancer epidemic on the
other. We need to think of them as
A new survey commissioned by AICR, however,
indicates that although Americans are deeply concerned about both obesity and
cancer, remarkably few are aware of the link between the two.
Asked to name major risk factors for
developing cancer, only 6 percent of 1,025 Americans surveyed mentioned
overweight and obesity. They were
more likely to mention exposure to certain chemicals (22 percent), high-fat
diets (18 percent), exposure to the sun (18 percent), family history (11
percent) and alcohol (7 percent).
Later in the survey, Americans were read a
list of chronic diseases and specifically asked which ones are significantly
affected by overweight and obesity. The
great majority were able to identify heart disease (89 percent) and diabetes (86
percent) as conditions made more likely by being overweight or obese.
Only 25 percent, however, were aware that overweight and obesity increase
Citing a report issued by the International
Agency for Research on Cancer, an agency of the World Health Organization, James
estimated that being overweight and inactive accounts for one-quarter to
one-third of worldwide cases of breast cancer, colon cancer, endometrial cancer,
kidney cancer and esophageal cancer. “That’s
somewhere between 102,000 and 135,000 cases in the U.S. alone,” he said.
This link is important, James noted.
“People need to be aware of it if they are to take steps to reduce
their risk of getting cancer,” he said.
Conversely, the rapid increase in the number
of people who are obese in the U.S. and worldwide could have a dire long-term
effect on cancer rates. Unless
people take the necessary steps, James said, we are headed for a steep
escalation in cancer cases.
James reported that one billion people are
overweight (Body Mass Index over 25) and, of that group, 300 million are obese
(Body Mass Index over 30) worldwide. According
to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 61 percent of American adults
are now classified as overweight or obese and 27 percent are considered obese.
between June 27 and June 30, 2002, the Harris survey entailed polling 1,025
adults aged 18 and over, using an unrestricted Random Digit Dialing technique
that significantly reduces bias and ensures that respondents with both listed
and unlisted telephone numbers are reached. The margin of error for the total
sample is 3.1 percent.
Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is the nation's third largest cancer
charity, focusing exclusively on the link between diet and cancer.
The Institute provides a wide range of education programs that help
millions of Americans learn to make dietary changes for lower cancer risk.
AICR also supports innovative research in cancer prevention and treatment
at universities, hospitals and research centers across the U.S.
The Institute has provided over $62 million in funding for research in
diet, nutrition and cancer. AICR is a member of the World Cancer Research Fund
International; its Web address is www.aicr.org.