ATLANTAObesity and tobacco use each account for about one-third of the nation's cancer deaths, and a greater emphasis on prevention efforts that promote healthy diets, regular exercise, and tobacco avoidance is needed to sharply reduce this toll. The 2006-2007 annual report of the President's Cancer Panel (PCP) said these efforts will require significant changes in public and private policies and the willingness of people to make healthier behavior choices (see pcp.cancer.gov).
"If we as a society want to see a significant drop in the number of lives lost to cancer, it is up to each of us to make it happen," said PCP chair LaSalle D. Leffall, Jr., MD, Charles R. Drew professor of surgery, Howard University. The PCP consists of Dr. Leffall; Margaret L. Kripke, PhD, of M.D. Anderson Cancer Center; and Lance Armstrong, founder of the Lance Armstrong Foundation.
The report noted that little research on cancer prevention and control is behavioral- or policy-oriented, and that most federally funded cancer prevention research emphasizes genetic and/or molecular biomarkers. This focus "ignores the microenvironment and the physical, social, and cultural contexts within which food choices, opportunities for physical activity, and tobacco use and smoke exposure occur," the report said.
Among its obesity recommendations:
• Coordination of US agricultural subsidy and public health policy for diet and nutrition to improve the food supply and help ensure access to affordable, healthy food. The government should structure farm supports to encourage more fruits and vegetables and less corn syrup, and restructure regulations for food choices allowed by the WIC program, Head Start, and school lunch programs.
• Regulation and monitoring of food advertising that targets children.
• Adoption of polices to improve the environment in ways that encourage physical activity with walker-friendly communities and safe public spaces.