National Public health week: Reducing cancer risk starts in childhood

April 6, 2016 | by City of Hope

Poor diet and obesity are key risk factors for cancer, with nearly one-third of all cancer deaths in the United States linked annually to preventable causes such as excess body weight, poor nutrition and physical inactivity.

In Los Angeles’ San Gabriel Valley, where nearly 28 percent of children ages 2 to 11 are overweight, and 23 percent of teens are obese, health officials expect a surge in obesity-related cancer cases in coming years.

Considering that across the country, children with obesity are more likely to have obesity as adults, the importance of a healthy and active lifestyle to reduce cancer risk -- starting in childhood -- is a key theme the American Public Health Association is pressing now, during National Public Health Week.

To combat this trend regionally, City of Hope is launching a multifaceted five-year initiative aimed at reducing cancer risks through better nutrition, particularly for children, made possible with the help of a $2.5 million grant from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. Initially, the grassroots program will focus on promoting healthy eating and physical activity in schools and at home. Long-term, the goal is to replicate successful strategies throughout Southern California and the nation.

“City of Hope’s ambitious initiative will bring together a diverse community of stakeholders to champion increased access to healthy foods and nutritional practices, and promote exercise,” said Steven T. Rosen, M.D., City of Hope’s provost and chief scientific officer, and the initiative’s principal investigator. “Making a few nutritional and lifestyle changes can have a profound impact on preventing cancer and other serious medical conditions.”

Specifically, the initiative will focus on a number of community-based interventions and collaborations:  

  • City of Hope will expand “Eat, Move, Live!” and K-12 outreach to local Duarte schools. Started in 2007 in Duarte, “Eat, Move, Live!” is a community-based nutrition and physical activity program that encourages physical activity and healthy eating among underserved programs, and will expand to Pomona and El Monte. It teaches families practical skills such as reading food labels and preparing affordable, healthy meals. Program sessions also include such physical activities as dance and Zumba.                                             
  • The institution will host two nutritional summits to raise awareness about the issue and share the initiative’s research.                                                                                                                                                                                
  • City of Hope will partner with Seeds of Hope, a Los Angeles Episcopal Diocese program that turns unused land into productive gardens and orchards, to train 280 of its staff on the cancer institution’s “Hope Starts With Me.” The program educates participants on how the body processes food, how nutrition affects the pancreas, weight and health, and how to prepare healthy meals.                                                                              
  • City of Hope also plans to open a 1,800-square-foot farm lab and teaching kitchen that will produce vegetables grown by community members and space for classes on healthy meal preparation. In addition, a City of Hope K-12 science education program – developed in partnership with the Duarte Unified School District and National Institutes of Health – will promote students’ interest in science and research careers with a focus on nutrition.

The initiative will also focus on research and policy. Two annual research grants will determine the best means to prevent cancer through dietary changes. Research will also be interwoven into the community projects funded by the grant, including collecting data on glucose levels in participants pre- and post-intervention.

In the area of policy, City of Hope will support school wellness policies and the adoption of city and/or state policy changes that promote healthy communities, especially around food policy and the environment.

In addition, City of Hope will partner with Ludwig Cancer Research, an international community of distinguished scientists that also received a Hilton Foundation grant for colon cancer prevention. The two entities will work together to ensure minority populations use Ludwig Cancer Research’s findings on best practices for cancer prevention.

The initiative’s co-principal investigators are Raynald Samoa, M.D., assistant professor of clinical diabetes, endocrinology and metabolism, and Victoria Seewaldt, M.D., professor and Ruth Ziegler Chair in Population Sciences. Kimlin Tam Ashing, Ph.D., professor and director of the Center of Community Alliance for Research & Education, and Susan Kane, Ph.D., professor of cancer biology, are co-investigators.

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If you are looking for a second opinion or consultation about your treatment, request an appointment online or contact us at 800-826-HOPE. Please visit Making Your First Appointment for more information.

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