Thoughts on the UN Summit on Non-Communicable Diseases

AICR Vice-President for Programs, Deirdre McGinley-Gieser, just sent us this dispatch from her travels:

I’m headed back on the train from New York after an amazing experience at the UN Summit on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) this week. (The four major NCDs are cancer, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and lung disease.)

It’s been a whirlwind few days, from the numerous side events hosted by national and international health organizations to the actual Summit itself.  It was impossible not to be impressed seeing so many individuals and health orgs mobilizing to press the case for global action now on NCDs.

I went to events hosted by the NCD Alliance, American College of Sports Medicine and the Pan-American Health Organization and sat in the UN Assembly for two sessions.  It was gratifying to see cancer so well represented within the context of NCDs, especially by HRH Princess Dina Mired of Jordan.  She spoke passionately, movingly, as the mother of a cancer survivor.

Margaret Chan, Director General of the World Health Organization was my own personal hero when she did not hesitate to denounce junk food as the worst way to fill hungry bellies here in the US and around the world.

Now, as we start to think, over these next few weeks and months, about how to make this call for action a reality, two things come to mind:

1. There’s been a lot of talk comparing this nascent movement to the AIDS movement, but that seems far too simplistic.  Each NCD has its own complexities – look at cancer alone, which is not one disease but many. Once you put cancer alongside heart disease, diabetes, and lung disease, and then add in complex environmental issues like access to medication, the built environment, transportation options, access to open spaces to engage in physical activity  — well, you get the picture.

2. There is no getting around how central a role the food and beverage industry plays in this issue.

Does this mean I don’t believe good things will come from this historic event?

No, I do think the UN Summit represents a huge breakthrough, and it was a privilege to be there.  I learned about the huge strides that are already been taken in many countries. We just need to keep the momentum going — which means keeping the pressure on government, industry, individuals (and on ourselves as a cancer research and education organization as well) — to make real, meaningful change finally happen.

Clearly, this is only the beginning. Here’s a link to AICR’s Advocacy and Policy page, where you can keep up to date with what AICR and World Cancer Research Fund International are doing to make sure cancer prevention stays at the top of the national and global health agenda.


Sweat the Small Stuff: Small Changes Make a Difference

ManJumpRopeBeachThis time of year can get crazy, and many of us get through it by telling ourselves that we’ll start taking better care of our health — AFTER the holidays are over.

“I’ll run a marathon!”  “I’ll head to the gym every morning!”  “I’ll bike to work!”

All laudable goals, to be sure.  But one speaker at our Research Conference argued that such sudden, sweeping changes are tough to make permanent, and only set us up for failure.

We wrote about him, and his preferred approach to getting more activity, lowering weight — and lowering cancer risk — in this month’s AICR eNews.

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Colon Cancer Deaths to Drop Dramatically?

According to a new report published in the journal Cancer, the number of deaths in the United States from colon cancer could drop significantly in the next decade due to improved screening and treatment.  In the past 10 years, the death rate has dropped 20% according to the report.  By 2020, the researchers predict, the death rate will be one half of what it was in 2000.

This is good news, but colon cancer is one of the most preventable cancers according to David  S. Alberts, MD .  Diet and physical activity play an important role in lowering cancer risk and Dr. Alberts believes this is a message everyone should hear.

AICR’s expert report showed convincing evidence that consumption of processed meat, high amounts of red meat, body fatness and alcohol are causes of colorectal cancer.   Physical activity was shown convincingly to reduce risk of colon cancer.  Foods containing fiber and certain vegetables may also decrease risk for colorectal cancer.

AICR recommends that Americans focus on incorporating healthy habits to lower their risk for developing cancer.  Eating a mostly plant-based diet, limiting red meat to less than 18 oz per week, exercising at least 30 minutes daily and maintaining a healthy weight are ways to reduce risk for cancer as well as other chronic diseases.