Guest Editorial: Healthy choices need to be taught at an early age
A new year offers an opportunity for a fresh start for kids and adults alike. Research shows that obesity is linked to cancer, and what's true for adults is true for young people, as well.
According to the National Cancer Institute, between 1980 and 2004, the prevalence of obesity has more than doubled among adults and tripled among children and adolescents.
Today, nearly one-third of all children in the United States are overweight or obese. About half of young people who are overweight as children will remain overweight in adulthood; 70 percent of those who are overweight by adolescence will remain overweight as adults.
Research shows that kids who eat a healthy diet and get plenty of exercise can improve their academic performance, classroom behavior and most importantly, reduce their risks of developing cancer in the future.
Cancer is not a disease limited to elderly populations. In fact, effective cancer prevention starts with healthy choices made at an early age. Helping kids develop good habits that carry them into adulthood is critical. The inevitable benefit will be better health, and fewer deaths from cancer.
Obesity and physical inactivity may account for 25 to 30 percent of several major cancers, including colon, post-menopausal breast, endometrial, kidney, and cancer of the esophagus. Poor diet and not being active are key factors that can increase a person's cancer risk.
The evidence is strong: about 575,000 Americans will die from cancer this year; about one-third of these deaths are linked to poor diet, physical inactivity, and carrying too much weight.
The good news? We can do something about this.
There is strong evidence that an individual's risk of developing cancer can be substantially reduced by healthy behavior: not using tobacco, getting sufficient physical activity, eating healthy foods in moderation, and participating in cancer screening according to recommended guidelines
Five cancer-fighting behaviors to teach kids:
1. Exercise daily and limit your TV and computer time.
2. Eat more fruits, vegetables and whole grains without added fats and sugars.
3. Maintain a healthy weight.
4. Protect your skin from the sun.
5. Don't smoke.
For more help and information, visit www.cancer.org.
This editorial originally appeared in the Alexandria Echo Press, a publication of Forum Communications. Information is from the National Cancer Institute, the largest voluntary health organization in the U.S.