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World Cancer Day Highlights Link Between Overweight and Cancer

New data demonstrates need for greater cancer awareness and more cancer prevention

GENEVA, Feb. 4 /PRNewswire/ -- Today the International Union Against Cancer (UICC) is launching "I love my healthy active childhood," a campaign to raise awareness about the link between excess body weight and cancer.

"Three to four million new cases of cancer could be prevented every year by avoiding overweight and obesity," says Isabel Mortara, executive director of the UICC. "Good habits start early in life, so our focus is on encouraging children to eat a healthy diet and be physically active. An estimated 22 million children under 5 are overweight, and the problem is growing."

The need for the UICC campaign is underlined by Cancer-related beliefs and behaviours (, a survey report released today, with new data showing how people fail to realize that the choices increase their risk of cancer.

For example, around 40% of people in the Americas, Australia/New Zealand and western Asia were unaware that being overweight increased their risk of cancer, with less awareness in other regions.

The survey is the first to provide internationally comparable data on cancer-related beliefs and behaviour. The UICC worked with Gallup International affiliates in 2008 to interview over 40,000 respondents in 39 countries. The new report provides a breakdown of data for eight UN regions.

"Overweight and obesity are part of the causal chain for many cancers," says Professor David Hill, the president of the UICC. "This is well established in science but not adequately understood in the community. In fact, current lack of public understanding of the link between body weight and cancer probably parallels our attitudes to smoking and cancer in the late 1950s."

World Cancer Day marks the start of a yearlong campaign to encourage adults to promote healthy eating and physical activity among children.

"The accumulated evidence linking overweight and obesity with cancer is largely based on adult studies," says Hill. "But healthy lifelong habits are best established in early childhood."

The campaign is backed by A healthy active childhood (, an expert report published today, and is one way the UICC is working with members and partners to implement the World Cancer Declaration adopted in 2008.

    Contact: Aline Ingwersen, +41-22-809-1878, +41-79-658-50-70 (mobile),,, Debra Anna Daugherty, + 202 558 3583,
    + 011 525 585 252806,

SOURCE International Union Against Cancer
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