Our Colorectal Cancer Report is Making International Headlines

Here in the States, the report of the AICR/WCRF Continuous Update Project (CUP) Expert on Colorectal Cancer, published yesterday, is in the news.

Here’s the WebMD story.

And here’s the Washington Post coverage.

It’s also been picked up by the Arizona Republic, New York Newsday, as several other newspapers throughout the US and Canada.

The American Meat Institute has released a statement expressing skepticism regarding the CUP Expert Panel’s consensus judgment that convincing evidence links red and processed meat to colorectal cancer, and urging “common sense.”

We at AICR stand by the CUP Expert Panel’s systematic and comprehensive evaluation of the evidence, but we do agree with the AMI on one point: The science on colorectal cancer does not support eliminating red meat from the diet. In fact, AICR recommends moderating intake of beef, pork and lamb to 18 ounces (cooked) per week — below this level, the increase in colorectal cancer  risk is very small; above this amount, the increase is enough to warrant concern. When it comes to processed meat, however, the situation is different. An increase in risk is seen with even relatively low consumption of processed meats like hot dogs, cold cuts and bacon — that’s why AICR recommends saving these foods for special occasions, like a hot dog at a ball game, or a slice of ham at Easter.

Our report has people around the globe talking. It made the cover of  the UK’s Daily Express, and was prominently featured in the other national UK papers as well. In Australia, it made the Sydney Morning-Herald and the Daily Sun. It even found its way into Russia’s Pravda.

There’s surely more coverage of this major report on colorectal cancer risk to come — let us know in the comments if you spot any in your local paper or on your local news.


Obesity and Smoking: Both Bad

Move over smoking, there’s a bigger health-hazard in our country: Obesity. A new study has found that obesity has now become an equal, if not greater, contributor to disease and shortening of a healthy life in comparison to smoking.

In the study, researchers calculated the Quality-Adjusted Life Years (QALYs) lost after surveying participants about a set of questions on health-related quality of life, such as asking about recent poor health days.

The results don’t seem that surprising, given the fact that obesity rates have steadily and significantly increased over the years, as smoking rates have decreased. From 1993 to 2008, when the study data was collected, the proportion of smokers among US adults reportedly declined 18.5 percent while obesity increased 85 percent. Smoking had a bigger impact on deaths while obesity had a bigger impact on illness.

The study is scheduled for publication in the February issue of American Journal of Preventive Medicine: You can read the news story about it here.

When it comes to cancer, obesity plays a key role. AICR estimates that approximately 100,000 cancers occurring in the US every year are caused by excess body fat. Add physical activity and a healthy diet to weight management, and we could prevent about one-third of the most common cancers. AICR does not study smoking, but tobacco use is considered to be responsible for a similar percentage of cancer cases – about one-third.

If you want to lose weight, AICR has developed a 3-step weight loss strategy — no dieting required.

fat man holding a measurement tape Hand with Cigarette
Smoking and excess body fat: both modifiable risk factors top the list to shorten a healthy life.


Beyond the “Gold Standard”: Diet, Cancer Prevention, and the Randomized Clinical Trial

gold-barsLast week’s soy-breast cancer study out of China received a fair amount of press. But some of that coverage contained basic assumptions about the nature of cancer research that aren’t accurate.

Take this passage from Time.com:

…. the study was not a randomized clinical trial of soy consumption. That is, rather than randomly assigning breast-cancer survivors to consume or not consume various amounts of soy, then following those participants to see whether they developed recurrent tumors, the study looked retrospectively at women’s self-determined soy-eating habits.

So far so good.

But then came this next bit:

The randomized clinical trial is the gold standard upon which medical practice is determined, and the only kind of trial that gives scientists confidence that other variables are not confounding their results.

Yeah, that’s … not always true. Not when you’re studying something as complex as the human diet, and a disease that can take many years to develop, like cancer.

When it comes to studying diet, lifestyle and cancer prevention, the randomized clinical trial (RCT) is one tool investigators use, but it can’t – and shouldn’t – be considered the be-all and end-all, the “gold standard” in all situations.

After the jump:  The difference between studying cancer treatment and studying cancer prevention.

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