Don't Eat Enough
Fruit, Veggies to Fight Cancer
As many as 2.5 million Canadians could
be at risk of developing cancer because they don't eat enough
fruits and vegetables to reap cancer-fighting benefits, don't
exercise enough and don't keep their weight in check, suggests
a new study by Cancer Care Ontario.
And governments should be quick
to institute educational campaigns about these preventable deaths,
similar to the steps taken in the war against tobacco, authors
of the study released said.
"The typical Ontario diet is one
where it doesn't provide optimal nourishment, it's lower in vegetables
and fruit, nor do we have the activity levels that we can maintain
good health and reduce or risk of cancer," said Ontario Cancer
Care researcher and dietitian Melody Roberts, who helped create
and carry out the Ontario Nutrition and Cancer Prevention Survey.
The survey found that up to 30
per cent of cancers in Ontario could be prevented if Ontarians
ate more fruit and vegetables, got more exercise and kept their
weight in check.
Another 30 per cent of cancers
could be eliminated if smokers quit their habit, the survey said.
It also found that 835,000 Ontario
adults - more men than women - didn't get even the minimum required
amount of fruits and vegetables and exercise, and didn't keep
their weight below the healthy body mass index of 25.
Applied across the country, disregarding
any variation in eating and exercise habits, that number would
amount to more than 2.5 million Canadian adults, suggested Dr.
Alan Hudson, CEO of Cancer Care Ontario.
In Ontario, the provincial government
currently spends one per cent of its cancer-fighting funds on
prevention and screening, the agency said.
"Cancer Care Ontario needs to pay
more attention to (prevention), and governments certainly need
to pay more attention to it," said Hudson.
"(Ontario Health Minister George)
Smitherman is very keen on the prevention side . . . I'm hopeful
that while he's the minister of health you're going to see much
more emphasis on this side than you have in the past."
Provinces across the country have
been increasing tobacco taxes to offset health-care costs related
to tobacco-caused illnesses such as lung cancer, and to dissuade
people from buying the lethal product. Bans on tobacco advertising
and television commercials about the perils of smoking are also
part of the campaign to help people quit.
Similar steps should be taken to
convince people that diet and exercise also have a big impact
on fighting cancer, said Terry Sullivan, vice-president of research
and cancer control at Cancer Care Ontario.
"Fifteen years ago people didn't
think we could do anything about tobacco, and somehow we've managed
to initiate comprehensive strategies to reduce tobacco consumption,"
"We have not organized ourselves
in a comprehensive strategy with respect to diet, physical activity,
healthy body weight and cancer."
The survey backed its findings
by saying cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus, stomach, colon,
rectum, pancreas, larynx, lungs and bladder all have "convincing
or probable evidence for prevention by vegetable and fruit consumption."
Esophagus, colon, rectum, breast, uterus and kidney cancers seem
to be positively affected by maintaining a healthy body weight,
and physical activity may combat cancer of the colon, rectum,
breast, uterus and prostate.
Health agencies recommend that
adults eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day,
but 40 per cent of adults fail to consume that minimum, Cancer
Care Ontario adds.
The telephone survey, conducted
between June 2001 and May 2002, involved 3,183 Ontario residents
ages 18 to 64.
Forty-eight per cent of Ontarians
surveyed were found to be overweight, with a body mass index of
25 or more. The index - the standard measure for health - is calculated
by dividing a person's weight in kilograms by the square of their
height in metres.
Another 48 per cent of those surveyed
said they got less than three hours of physical activity a week,
less than the recommended 3.5 hours a week. More residents of
northern Ontario than southern Ontario and the Toronto area got
the recommended amount of exercise, either at work, doing chores
or in their leisure time, the study found.
Only 14 per cent of those surveyed
got the recommended amount of fruit and vegetables and exercise
and maintained a healthy weight.
Reference Source 114