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California Area Office logoCalifornia Area Office

Prevent Cancer through food, nutrition and physical activity

Image of Margo KerriganMargo Kerrigan, M.P.H., Area Director
Indian Health Service California Area Office

Being obese or putting on weight can increase your risk for cancers of the breast, endometrium (the lining of the uterus), colon, kidney, and esophagus. Obesity is the abnormally high and unhealthy proportion of body fat in an individual and is commonly measured as a body mass index (BMI) greater than 30.0. Fortunately, maintaining a healthy BMI is easier than you think.

Both obesity and Cancer are conditions of particular importance to American Indians/Alaska Natives (AI/AN). American Indian and Alaska Native women are more likely than white women to be obese. In fact, less than half of American Indian and Alaska Native women are at a healthy weight, according to the Department of Health and Human Services Office on Minority Health. Plus, Cancer is the second leading cause of death among AI/AN adults.

Maintaining a healthy weight (a BMI of 20-25) is one of the most important steps you can take to prevent cancer. To maintain a healthy weight, avoid red meat, alcohol, bacon, ham, processed meats, and sugary drinks. It is especially important that you exercise every day. To prevent weight gain, adults need to decrease food and beverage calories and increase physical activity. Don't forget to incorporate a healthy amount of fruits and vegetables into your daily diet.

According to data collected by the Indian Health Service, the national average of AI/AN children ages 2-5 years with a BMI at or above the 95th percentile was 24% in 2010. Parents need to encourage children to ensure a healthy weight using these simple steps:

  • Eat 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day
  • Limit TV and other screen time to no more than 2 hours a day
  • Engage in 1 hour of physical activity each day
  • Limit sugar-sweetened beverages each day
  • Another important step in reducing your risk for cancer is getting screened for colorectal cancer or receiving an annual pap screen and mammography.

Calculate your own BMI:

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