Here are the numbers: Two of three people die every year from non-communicable diseases (NCDs), many of which are preventable, such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes. The number of global cancers now stands at 12 million new cases annually. An estimated 2.8 million of those cancers are linked to diet, physical activity and weight.
Next week's United Nations (UN) Summit on NCDs offers a "once-in-a-generation" opportunity to avoid a public health disaster, experts at the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) said today.
"With millions of lives at risk around the world, the stakes are incredibly high," said AICR Vice President Deirdre McGinley-Gieser. "And while this is an issue facing millions globally, every day in the U.S. people are being diagnosed with a cancer that could have been prevented. Yet many people are still unaware that risk factors such as alcohol and obesity affect cancer risk.
"Cancer and other lifestyle-related diseases are one of the biggest challenges we face today and the UN Summit later this month represents a real chance to turn the tide."
Excess body fat is linked to seven different cancers. And according to estimates by the World Health Organization, the obesity rate is rising dramatically around the world (see story below). In the United States, there could be an additional 65 million more obese adults by 2030, making about half of the adult population obese.
NCDs are a threat to the whole world and, in particular, developing countries, with global rates of heart disease, diabetes and respiratory disease expected to soar. The UN is holding the high-level Summit on September 19 and 20 to address what can be done to reduce this growing disease burden.
The aim of the September 2011 UN Summit is to bring Heads of State and other representatives from the UN member states together to agree on commitments to tackle the growing global burden of cancer and other NCDs.
AICR's global umbrella organization, the World Cancer Research Fund International, held a press conference in London today to release new cancer preventability estimates for the entire world. You can see the press conference here.
It is only the second time in the UN's history that a health issue is receiving such a high level of global attention. AICR, along with its partners in the World Cancer Research Fund global network, is concerned that failure to develop robust global and national policy for NCD prevention will lead to millions of preventable deaths. AICR is calling on President Obama to attend the Summit in person to demonstrate his commitment to tackling NCDs in the U.S. and around the world.
AICR and WCRF International will be among the civil society organizations attending the Summit in New York next week.
"If governments around the world show real leadership now, this Summit could lead to the kind of changes that would spare millions of people the needless suffering of being diagnosed with cancer," said McGinley-Gieser.
"But if the Summit does not lead to this kind of change, we will look back at this once-in-a-generation international event as a missed opportunity to stem the rising tide of lifestyle-related diseases."
The number of cancers preventable globally through lifestyle change was calculated using the preventability estimates for high- and low-income countries found in the WCRF/AICR report, Policy and Action for Cancer Prevention, combined with GLOBOCAN cancer incidence estimates.
A new interactive Web-based tool developed by researchers allows users to predict their weight change after inputting factors related to energy balance, including activity, total calories and calories from carbohydrates.
The model incorporates metabolic changes that occur as people lose weight. All other factors staying equal, the calories a dieter can eat to shed one pound at the start of weight loss will decrease over time as weight loss occurs. The tool was released as part of the series of articles on obesity in The Lancet.
The program (which uses Java) notes that it is not intended to provide personal medical advice or substitute for the advice of a physician or weight management professional.
In what began as an epidemic in high-income countries, the obesity epidemic has now spread to most middle and many low-income countries, setting the stage for dramatically increased rates of several chronic diseases, including cancer, states a special series of articles on obesity published in The Lancet. Many of the lower-income countries face the dual problem of excess weight coupled with malnutrition.
The articles appeared as part of a four-article series on obesity published in advance of the United Nations General Assembly, which will meet September 19 and 20.
Worldwide obesity has more than doubled since 1980. By 2008, an estimated 1.46 billion adults and 170 million children worldwide were overweight or obese. Although obesity rates continue to push upwards throughout the world, rates vary widely by country. For example, out of every 100 women, in France, an estimated 18 of the women are obese; in Greece, 26 of 100 women, and in both Japan and China, 3 of 100 women are obese. In Saudi Arabia, 44 of every 100 women are obese and in the United States, as well as Mexico, an estimated 35 women of every 100 are obese.
Changes in the global food system, including reductions in the cost of high energy-dense food, appear to be major drivers of the global obesity epidemic during the past forty years. Government leadership, regulation, and investment, in monitoring, and research is needed to reverse the obesity epidemic, the authors suggest.
Source: Boyd A Swinburn, Gary Sacks, Kevin D Hall, Klim McPherson, Diane T Finegood, Marjory L Moodie, Steven L Gortmaker. "The global obesity pandemic: shaped by global drivers and local environments." The Lancet. Published online August 26, 2011. Series Papers.
Risk of breast cancer dropped significantly in mice when their regular diet included a modest amount of walnut throughout their life, suggests a new AICR-funded study published in the journal Nutrition and Cancer.
The study compared the effects of a typical diet to that of a diet containing walnuts across the lifespan: Through the mother from conception through weaning, and subsequently by eating the food directly. The amount of walnut in the test diet equated to about 2 ounces a day for humans.
During the study period, a test group of female mice genetically predisposed to breast cancer was fed a diet containing ground walnuts. The offspring whose diets also included walnuts developed breast cancer at less than half the rate of the group consuming no walnuts. In addition, the number of tumors and their sizes were significantly smaller. The group consuming walnuts only after weaning – the mother was not exposed to any walnuts – showed approximately one-third fewer tumors compared to the mice not exposed to walnuts.
The study was funded by grants from AICR with a matching grant from the California Walnut Commission. Neither group had any input on the study design or findings.
Source: Hardman WE, Ion G, Akinsete JA, Witte TR. "Dietary Walnut Suppressed Mammary Gland Tumorigenesis in the C(3)1 TAg Mouse." Nutr Cancer. 2011 Aug-Sep;63(6):960-70. Epub 2011 Jul 20.
Almost half of Americans drink sugar-sweetened drinks daily, with men consuming close to 200 calories per day from sugary drinks, finds a new government report released last week. The survey was conducted by researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Overall, the report found that men take in an average of 175 calories from sugar drinks on any given day, while women take in 94 calories. (A 12-ounce can of soda has 140 calories.) Key findings of the report include:
In the CDC survey, sugar-sweetened drinks include fruit drinks (not 100% fruit juice), sodas, energy drinks, sports drinks, and sweetened bottled waters. Researchers pulled data from a large national health survey abbreviated NHANES. For cancer prevention, AICR recommends people avoid sugary drinks. AICR's expert report and its updates concluded that regularly consuming sugary drinks leads to weight gain, and extra body fat is linked to increased risk of seven different cancers.
Source: Ogden CL, Kit BK, Carroll MD, Park S. Consumption of sugar drinks in the United States, 20052008. NCHS data brief, no 71. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2011.