The risk of cancer from being obese is similar to the risk of cancer from using tobacco, according to the American Cancer Society, and experts suggest that obesity may soon surpass smoking as the leading cause of preventable deaths.
Being overweight or obese is associated with a higher risk of several types of cancer, including colon and breast cancer, and evidence suggests that being physically active can reduce cancer risks, especially for colon and breast cancer.
One-third of cancer deaths are related to diet and inactivity, and experts believe that about 186,000 lives could be saved each year if people made lifestyle changes.
To spur such changes, the society will launch the Great American Weigh In, similar to the Great American Smokeout, which began about three decades ago and encouraged people to quit smoking.
The Weigh In aims to establish a link between fat and cancer in the minds of the public, as a recent survey found that only one percent of participants knew that maintaining a healthy weight would also keep cancer risk down.
The program asks people to gauge whether they are overweight or obese by measuring their body mass index (BMI), a measurement of obesity involving height and weight.
Women will be a primary target for the society since they typically make decisions on what to feed the family and are also more likely than men to make lifestyle changes. The link between weight and breast cancer, which is the most feared disease among women, will also be a major motivator for women to maintain healthy weights, according to the society.
The Weigh In’s simplistic goal, measuring BMI, may trigger people to take other healthy steps. However, the program’s simple goal has been criticized by some who say a next step, such as a 30-minute walk each day, should be suggested. Other strategies include using law, as is the case with smoking (for example people cannot smoke inside many buildings). One suggestion for food would be to reduce prices of healthier food and raise taxes on higher fat ones.
Yahoo News February 17, 2003