Science & Tech

Your community may be harmful to your health

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Report recommends policy approaches to cancer prevention

In 1996 the Harvard Center for Cancer Prevention reported that 50 percent of all cancer risk could be eliminated though a modified diet, increased exercise, limited alcohol intake and cessation of tobacco use. However, to achieve such a significant reduction, it is necessary to develop public policies that hinge on our current scientific knowledge of cancer and on the vast social and political movement currently aligned behind cancer research. A new report — Fulfilling the Potential for Cancer Prevention: Policy Approaches — summarizes what is known about cancer prevention and what can be done in our communities to promote and sustain healthy lifestyles. According to Graham Colditz, director of education at the Harvard Center for Cancer Prevention, “as public awareness of cancer and the potential for risk reduction continues to rise, we must frame policies that effectively utilize our current knowledge of cancer prevention and that reinforce healthy behavior changes. As our report states ‘it is not enough to assume that individuals who are educated about their cancer risk will modify their behavior to lower their risk. Barriers to behavioral change exist beyond the individual at the community level and within the broader social milieu.’ “