The American Cancer Society Just Updated Their Prevention Guidelines for the First Time Since 2012

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On June 9, the American Cancer Society (ACS) issued an update to their 2012 guidelines for cancer prevention. Published in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, the updated suggestions include findings from the latest research on diet, healthy eating patterns and physical activity as it links to cancer prevention. Here’s every change to know about to help keep yourself—and your family—healthier than ever.

Physical Activity Guidelines
The updated guidelines suggest adults engage in 150‐300 minutes of moderate‐intensity physical activity per week, or 75‐150 minutes of vigorous‐intensity physical activity, or an equivalent combination; achieving or exceeding the upper limit of 300 minutes is optimal.

Additionally, sedentary behavior, such as sitting, lying down, and watching television, and other forms of screen‐based entertainment, should be limited.

This is an increase from 2012’s suggested 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity per week for adults.

Recommended Foods
The ACS says an ideal healthy eating pattern includes foods that are high in nutrients in amounts that help achieve and maintain a healthy body weight; a variety of vegetables—dark green, red, and orange, fiber‐rich legumes, such as beans and peas, and others; fruits, especially whole fruits with a variety of colors, and whole grains.

2012’s guidelines cited a recommendation of at least 2.5 cups of vegetables and fruits daily and to choose whole grains instead of refined grain products.

Foods to Avoid
According to the ACS, a suggested healthy eating pattern does not include red and processed meats, sugar-sweetened beverages or highly processed foods and refined grain products. 2012’s guidelines only suggested a limited consumption of red and processed meats.

Updated Alcohol Limits
In 2012, the ACS limited alcoholic beverages to no more than one drink per day for women and two per day for men. 2020’s guidelines now suggests avoiding all alcohol, but repeats the  previous recommendation for those who do choose to drink.

“The guideline continues to reflect the current science that dietary patterns, not specific foods, are important to reduce the risk of cancer and improve overall health,” said Dr. Laura Makaroff, the American Cancer Society’s senior vice president of prevention and early detection. “There is no one food or even food group that is adequate to achieve a significant reduction in cancer risk,” she said in a press release. “Current and evolving scientific evidence supports a shift away from a nutrient-centric approach to a more holistic concept of dietary patterns.”

Understanding these changes are difficult to make alone, the American Cancer Society advises public, private, and community organizations to work collaboratively at national, state, and local levels to develop, advocate for, and implement policy and environmental changes.

The robust guidelines also include specific recommendations and evidence for the role weight management, physical activity and diet play for the prevention of cancer by site, including breast, ovary, lung, liver, thyroid and others. Read the American Cancer Society’s full recommendations here.

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