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Obesity Is About To Surpass Tobacco As The Leading Cause Of Cancer

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on November 7th, 2014 12:08 am by HL

Obesity Is About To Surpass Tobacco As The Leading Cause Of Cancer

But most Americans have no idea there’s any link between the two to begin with.

The post Obesity Is About To Surpass Tobacco As The Leading Cause Of Cancer appeared first on ThinkProgress.

FILE - In this Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014, file photo, an overweight man rests on a bench in Jackson, Miss.

FILE – In this Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014, file photo, an overweight man rests on a bench in Jackson, Miss.

CREDIT: AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File

Obesity will surpass tobacco as the leading cause of cancer “within a couple years,” officials from the American Society of Clinical Oncology recently announced.

But this news may come as a surprise to many people: according to a phone survey conducted by the Associated Press and NORC Center, fewer than 10 percent of Americans know that a link between excess weight and cancer exists.

“It’s pretty rare to find someone who doesn’t know the association of tobacco with cancer,” Dr. Clifford Hudis, an author of the policy statement and chief of breast cancer medicine at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, told Dallas News. “If you ask the general population if there’s a relationship between obesity and cancer, the general answer is no.”

Rates of obesity in the United States have more than doubled since the 1970s. Today, more than 1 out of 3 Americans carry excess body fat, according to data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That figure translates into nearly 1 in 5 cancer deaths and $50 billion in health care spending. Previous research by ASCO has also linked obesity to aggressive breast cancer in postmenopausal women, prostate cancer in older men, and a host of other ailments.

In recent years, conversations about excess weight have focused on lifestyle and diet choices. Experts tout the importance of maintaining a balanced diet that includes bread, fruits and vegetables, dairy, meat, and fish and engaging in physical activity. Studies have shown that reducing sodium intake by 1,200 mg trims down waistlines and cuts annual medical costs by $20 billion.

Many people, however, don’t heed the words of wisdom. An August Gallup poll found that more than 3 out of 4 Americans consume high-calorie, high-sodium fast food at least monthly, with half of that group saying they eat it weekly. Plus, Americans also don’t get much time outside or on the treadmill. Less than 5 percent of adults take part in 30 minutes of daily physical activity, according to data compiled by the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition. Only six states — including Illinois, Mississippi, Massachusetts, and New York — require physical education for children in every grade.

But shaving the pounds off may be easier said than done for many people — especially African Americans and Latinos, many of whom live in low-income communities and don’t have the resources they need to make long-term lifestyle changes.

Today, more than 49 million Americans live in areas with high food insecurity, where the nearest grocery store is more than a mile away. Even with funds from the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program at their disposal, people living in low-income communities don’t enjoy high quality produce as much as their wealthier counterparts. According to a study published in September, the gap in quality of food between well-to-do and low-income people doubled between 2000 and 2010, a period during which the American Recession took place.

In recent years, members of the public health community have also found evidence suggesting that the sedentary lifestyle many low-income people lead could be connected to unsafe neighborhood conditions, inadequate access to parks and recreation centers, and long distances to important locations.

“Where you live in the United States shouldn’t determine how long and how healthy you live — but it does, far more than it should,” CDC Director Tom Frieden said in July when the federal agency released a study that showed lower life expectancy among people burdened with disproportionate crime, poverty, limited health care, and poor schools. Frieden used the study as an opportunity to discuss glaring socioeconomic inequalities that will undermine efforts to increase eat healthy and exercise among all Americans.

Frieden added: “Not only do people in certain states and African-Americans live shorter lives, they also live a greater proportion of their last years in poor health. It will be important moving forward to support prevention programs that make it easier for people to be healthy no matter where they live.”

The post Obesity Is About To Surpass Tobacco As The Leading Cause Of Cancer appeared first on ThinkProgress.

Gun Reform Did Better Than You Think It Did On Election Day

In Colorado, Washington and elsewhere, millions of Americans became safer from guns on Election Day.

The post Gun Reform Did Better Than You Think It Did On Election Day appeared first on ThinkProgress.

Sarah Clements is an Organizing Fellow for Gun Violence Prevention at Generation Progress. She is also an undergraduate at Georgetown University.

John Hickenlooper, still the Governor of Colorado after signing new gun regulations into law

John Hickenlooper, still the Governor of Colorado after signing new gun regulations into law

CREDIT: AP Photo/Brennan Linsley

There are some images that are forever ingrained in your mind. For me, that includes one of a sea of white boards, each representing someone struck down by gun violence. I saw this image on a brutally cold winter day in Washington, D.C., after my father and I traveled down to the capital to attend a rally in support of stronger gun laws.

The rally occurred only a little more than a month after my hometown was shaken by one of the worst shootings in American history. My mother was a second-grade teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary School when a gunman entered the school and shot 26 people — including 20 children. She survived the shooting, but a month later, we were reeling, just trying to get up in the morning, still in a fog of shock.

So when I learned of the “March on Washington for Gun Control,” I knew that I needed to go to the march, at least to give me something to grasp onto. After we marched with 6,000 other Americans, I ended up sitting on the stage of the rally set up on the National Mall, when a speaker asked for everyone in the crowd to hold up a white sign if they had one. And suddenly, hundreds of crisp white signs with one thing written on them — the names of gun violence victims — whisked up. From the stage, I could barely see peoples’ faces anymore. Just names on blindingly white signs that nearly blended in with the snow on the ground around us.

The image of all those names changed me. And since that moment, I have invested time and energy in becoming an activist and organizer for gun violence prevention. Activists on both sides of the guns issue have known for a long time that the 2014 election would be crucial toward advancing our respective goals. And, while my side unquestionably felt some setbacks last Tuesday, we also scored many important victories:

  1. The governor-elect of Rhode Island, Gina Raimondo (D-RI), led the collaborative effort in her state to divest Rhode Island’s state pension fund from the gun industry.
  2. Three Governors — Malloy (D-CT), Hickenlooper (D-CO), and Cuomo (D-NY) — who led the charge on passing comprehensive gun reform packages in their states, won re-election without being afraid to make it an underlying issue of the campaign.
  3. Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty of Newtown, Robin Kelly of Chicago, and other members of Congress who are champions of not only this issue, but for their constituents who are victims’ family members or survivors, won re-election with gun reform on the ticket.
  4. Red-state Democrats who sided with the National Rifle Association by voting against the Manchin-Toomey bill discovered that the NRA had little interest in promoting their reelection — in some cases, the nations largest gun lobby spent lavishly to elect their opponent. Both Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR) and Mark Begich (D-AR), the two Democrats who opposed Manchin-Toomey that were up for reelection this year, also lost, proving that siding with the NRA no longer necessarily helps candidates. In fact, it’s the opposite.
  5. Remember those recall elections in Colorado that unseated gun reform legislators a few months ago? And the media said this would be the end for our movement? The two pro-gun candidates who unseated them were, themselves, unseated on Tuesday. By large margins.
  6. And of course, Washington State made history by becoming the first state to expand background checks for all gun sales by popular vote, winning with a more-than-comfortable 61% of support. The opposing measure, which was funded and supported by hard-line group Gun Owners of America, lost.
  7. It would be naive to dismiss and ignore the losses that I and others working to reform America’s gun law experienced on Election Day. From the Republican takeover in the Senate to the defeat of Colorado Senator Mark Udall, a committed friend of the gun violence prevention movement, Tuesday night was surely not enjoyable for many of us to watch. Kay Hagan in North Carolina lost her Senate seat, and Governor Rick Scott won re-election in Florida even after Stand Your Ground battles. Only 12% of Americans age 18-30 got out to vote, and if that number went up, election results would look a lot different. In Arkansas, the Republican sweep of the state legislature could bring a proliferation of guns on campuses, in schools, and in public in general. Texas and Oklahoma are already pushing open carry with no permit required. In short, I certainly went to bed feeling defeated.

    Nevertheless, on Tuesday night we also saw signs that our efforts are translating into real change. No matter what the intensely fatalistic media said about the “death of gun control” after Manchin-Toomey fell, we continue to build the infrastructure that can oppose the NRA and other groups that take nearly absolutist stands against gun regulation. For the first time in a long time, Americans of all backgrounds are paying close attention to this problem, uniting communities affected, bringing together organizations working to fix it, flagging donors who wanted to do good with their wallets, and mobilizing a grassroots swell against gun violence, weak gun laws, and the gun lobby.

    These efforts started to pay off long before the 2014 election. We saw the elections of candidates like Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Ed Markey (D-MA) who ran with gun reform on their platform and won. We saw an ATF director appointed to the role for the first time in nearly 7 years, and we saw multiple states — from Connecticut to Maryland, Delaware to Colorado to New York — pass comprehensive gun reform packages. On the ground, we saw thousands of moms (led by stay-at-home mother of five Shannon Watts, who I actually first encountered on that cold day in D.C. on the rally stage) hosting house parties and phone banks and rallies, and pressuring corporate America to enact safe policies in their establishments. We have even seen young people mobilizing on their campuses and in their communities to build a Millennial branch of the movement.

    There is no doubt that we have work to do. In the last almost 23 months, more than 80 school shootings have occurred, thousands of Americans have been murdered by guns, and even more have been injured. Every day that America allows another month to slip by without enacting reforms like universal background checks, we add to these tolls.

    But the fact that our victories have been incremental does not mean that they have been insignificant. As non-violent revolutionary André Trocmé said, “Look hard for ways to make little moves against destructiveness” — and we are making these moves. Our victory in Washington State can and will be copied in other states. Governors can look to people like Hickenlooper as examples of state executives who held firm on gun safety and then held onto their jobs even in a very difficult year for Democrats. And lawmakers can look to Pryor and Begich as warnings next time they consider siding with the NRA.

    The post Gun Reform Did Better Than You Think It Did On Election Day appeared first on ThinkProgress.

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