Cancer Prevention: Looking Back, Looking Forward

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It’s National Cancer Prevention Month and we’re taking the opportunity to mark AICR’s 30th Anniversary.

In our February eNews, we look back at what we’ve learned and forward to where the research is going. We’ve come a long way in the past 30 years in understanding how diet, weight and physical activity affect cancer risk and survivorship – but we still have much more to learn. Here’s a look at some things we know and what may be down the road:

1.  What we eat makes a difference.

Diet recommendations to lower cancer risk have evolved, as for many chronic diseases, from a focus on single nutrients or food components to overall eating patterns and whole foods.

This can make choosing a healthy diet simpler, and AICR’s New American Plate model, unveiled in 1999, is a perfect example. Reshape your plate to look like this: at least 2/3 contains vegetables, fruit, whole grains and legumes, 1/3 or less contains animal foods.

Stay tuned: We’re learning more about how food components work together and how a person’s genes may affect individual responses to nutrients and food.

2.  Physical activity affects cancer risk and can benefit survivors.

It’s no secret that physical activity can help people keep weight off, but AICR’s expert report and its updates concluded that moderate physical activity also lowers risk for several cancers independent of preventing weight gain.

More good news – cancer survivors can benefit from appropriate physical activity throughout and after treatment. Check out our new video: Exercise for Breast Cancer Survivors.

Stay tuned: What kinds, how much and at what intensity will exercise best promote cancer prevention and healthy survivorship?

3.  How much we weigh affects cancer risk.

Overweight and obesity increases risk for seven cancers. AICR estimates that more than 103,000 cancer cases in the U.S. every year could be prevented if every American was a healthy weight. Reversing the obesity epidemic will require individuals to make healthier eating and exercise choices and developing policies/environments that make it easy to make the healthy choice – whether more walkable communities or access to healthy and affordable foods.

Stay tuned: How will all the players – individuals, government, industry, schools and workplaces work together to support a healthier America?

What lifestyle changes have you made based on cancer prevention research?


    Author: Alice RD

    Alice G. Bender, MS, RDN, is the Director of Nutrition Programs at AICR. She helps put the science of cancer prevention by providing tips and tools to choose nutritious and delicious foods. Alice has guided thousands of individuals to healthier lives through diet changes and choices.

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