SEATTLE - The American Cancer Society
(ACS) has updated its cancer prevention guidelines
. Maintaining a healthy weight and exercising regularly are now believed to be the most important lifestyle changes - along with quitting smoking - for those who want to reduce their risk of developing cancer.
The research indicates that obesity affects the immune system and cell growth. Shedding excess weight is an important prevention strategy. ACS spokesperson Denise Kolba explains the connection:
"We know that people who are overweight and obese tend to have higher levels of insulin and estrogen circulating in their blood. Research has shown that these hormones are related to cell growth. Therefore, they are really thought to influence our cancer risk."
She says losing even a small amount of weight can be beneficial, adding that it's never too late to start. The nutrition guidelines focus on smaller portion sizes, although Greg Cameron with ACS says it's also important to pay attention to what's on that plate.
"You should consume a healthy diet, and most of that should consist of plant sources - fruits and vegetables. We also encourage people to engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or physical activity each week."
The latest ACS guidelines say excessive weight is a factor in 14 percent to 20 percent of U.S. cancer deaths, and people who follow the recommendations get the added bonus of reducing their risk of cardiovascular disease, too.
Last year, more than 11,700 cancer deaths were reported in Washington state.
An overview of the new guidelines is available at www.cancer.org