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Most Americans Unaware of Excessive Weight as a Risk for Some Cancers

Most Americans Unaware of Excessive Weight as a Risk for Some Cancers

WASHINGTON—Most Americans worry about developing cancer and being overweight, but few of them recognize that excessive pounds are a risk factor for some common cancers, according to a new survey commissioned by the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR). Of those polled, 61% said they were either very or somewhat concerned about receiving a diagnosis of cancer. Yet when asked to name major risk factors for cancer other than smoking, only 6% listed overweight or obesity.

A recent review of the scientific literature by AICR found that excessive weight increased the risk of six types of malignancies—postmenopausal breast, colon, endometrial, esophageal, prostate, and kidney—by 25% to 33%.

In the survey, conducted by the polling firm Harris Interactive, only 14% said they were not concerned at all about getting cancer and 24% said they were not very concerned. A significantly greater percentage of Americans earning less than $15,000 expressed concern about developing the disease than those earning higher incomes—35% vs 20%. And 73% of blacks said they were very or somewhat concerned vs 60% of whites. Women are more concerned than men: While 41% of the men said they were not worried about cancer, only 34% of the women expressed no concern.

When asked about cancer risk factors other than smoking, survey respondents mentioned certain chemicals (22%), overexposure to the sun (18%), consuming a high-fat diet (18%), heavy alcohol use (7%), and excessive weight (6%).

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