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Take steps to cut cancer risk

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Good health is a reward for clean living.

That Utahns have the lowest incidence of lung cancer in the nation is due in large part to the fact that so few residents smoke. Smoking is a leading cause of lung cancer.

In fact, nearly a third of all cancers are attributed to tobacco use. Evidence also suggests that another third are due to nutrition and physical activity factors, including obesity.

Overall, according to the American Cancer Society's annual report, which was released this week, Utah has the fourth-lowest cancer rate for women and the fifth-lowest for men.

A cause for concern is that Utah has one of the highest rates of prostate cancer.

The Cancer Society has a goal of cutting cancer deaths in half and reducing the incidence of cancer by 25 percent by 2015. Prevention is the key to doing that.

Those who smoke can significantly reduce the risk of lung cancer just by quitting. For nonsmokers, the most important lifestyle changes that can be made to reduce cancer risk involve diet and physical activity.

Obesity is both a state and nationwide problem that is having a serious impact on people's health. The trend is forboding.

According to a report by the Utah Department of Health, the percentage of overweight and obese adults in Utah went from 35.9 percent in 1989 to 50.9 percent in 1999. That's a 42 percent increase in just 10 years. Obesity not only increases the risk for some cancers but also the risk of heart disease, hypertension, stroke, Type 2 diabetes and osteoarthritis.

That same report showed that only 27 percent of Utah's adults participate in regular physical activity. Being involved in physical activity combined with healthy eating habits is the recipe for defeating obesity. Rose Defa, the American Cancer Society's executive director in Utah, says people need to eat at least two fruits and three vegetables a day.

Another critical factor in reducing the number of deaths caused by cancer is cancer screenings. Adults need to regularly get mammograms and colon and prostate cancer screenings. In addition, both children and adults need to be careful about ultraviolet ray exposure, which can cause skin cancer.

While cures for cancer are being sought, people can protect themselves from many of the pains of cancer by taking the aforementioned preventive measures.