The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) sent a letter to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius today requesting a report by the Surgeon General of the United States that examines how the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages impacts the health of Americans. The letter emphasized the scientific evidence linking one-third of all cancer deaths to poor diet and inadequate physical activity. The letter goes on to state, “As was the case in 1964, when the Surgeon General first revealed to the broad American public the dangers of tobacco consumption, an unbiased and comprehensive report could have a major impact on the public’s consciousness and begin to change the direction of public behavior in their choices of food and drinks.”
The text of the letter follows.
July 3, 2012
Dear Secretary Sebelius:
The American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), the nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy partner of the American Cancer Society (the Society), would like to add its voice to that of other organizations representing patients, health providers and consumers in requesting that you ask the Surgeon General of the United States to undertake a comprehensive examination and report on how the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages is impacting the health of Americans today and in the future.
As you may know, the Society publishes Guidelines on Nutrition and Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention to serve as a foundation for its communication, policy and community strategies and ultimately to influence the behavior of Americans. The 2012 Cancer Prevention Guidelines stated:
“For the great majority of Americans who do not use tobacco, the most important modifiable determinants of cancer risk are weight control, dietary choices, and levels of physical activity. One-third of the more than 572,000 cancer deaths that occur in the United States each year can be attributed to diet and physical activity habits, including overweight and obesity…”
“…consuming a healthy diet can substantially reduce one’s lifetime risk of developing or dying from cancer. These same behaviors are also associated with a decreased risk of developing cardiovascular disease and diabetes.”
“Current trends toward increasing portion sizes, the consumption of high-calorie foods, sugar-sweetened beverages…are contributing to an obesity epidemic among Americans of all ages and across all population segments.”
“Evidence suggests that obese children are more likely than normal-weight children to become obese adults, and that their obesity in adulthood is likely to be more severe.”
“Improving the school environment through policies that require daily, quality physical education and healthier food and beverage choices, and that limit the availability of and access to foods and beverages of low nutritional value; limiting advertising and marketing…are all important strategies to consider in addressing youth obesity trends.”
“Large portion sizes, calorie-dense foods, and sugar-sweetened beverages are extensively marketed by restaurants, supermarkets, and food and beverage companies.”
“Sugar contributes to caloric intake without providing any of the nutrients that reduce cancer risk.”
We know there is a direct link between excessive consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and obesity, and the adverse health effect can be profound in children as they grow into adults and throughout their lives. As was the case in 1964, when the Surgeon General first revealed to the broad American public the dangers of tobacco consumption, an unbiased and comprehensive report on the impact of sugar-sweetened beverages could have a major impact on the public’s consciousness and perhaps begin to change the direction of public behavior in their choices of food and drinks.
If we look back at the history of the nation, we know that the increasing incidence of obesity among the American public has overtaken us almost overnight. There seems to be a consensus about the problem and the cause, but what is lacking is an articulate, science-based and comprehensive national plan of action. We believe the combined resources and credibility of the Surgeon General could help us get there.
Thank you so much for considering this request. I look forward to hearing from you.
Christopher W. Hansen
 Kushi LH, Doyle C, McCullough M, et al. American Cancer Society Guidelines on Nutrition and Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention: Reducing the Risk of Cancer with Healthy Food Choices and Physical Activity. CA Cancer J Clin 2012; 62: 30-67.
ACS CAN, the nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate of the American Cancer Society, supports evidence-based policy and legislative solutions designed to eliminate cancer as a major health problem. ACS CAN works to encourage elected officials and candidates to make cancer a top national priority. ACS CAN gives ordinary people extraordinary power to fight cancer with the training and tools they need to make their voices heard. For more information, visit www.acscan.org.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Lauren Walens or Steven Weiss
American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network
Phone: (202) 661-5763 or (202) 661-5711
Email: Lauren.Walens@cancer.org or Steve.Weiss@cancer.org
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