Following a reported decline in cancer deaths for 2004 — attributed to early detection and testing, and improvements in treatments — the American Cancer Society wants that decline to continue by encouraging Americans to adopt a healthy lifestyle that can help prevent cancer. For the majority of people who do not smoke, the most important ways to reduce cancer risk include maintaining a healthy weight and eating well, and this year's Great American Eat Right Challenge is designed to help Americans do just that. Taking place on Thursday, Aug. 16, this year's challenge is designed to encourage Americans to "Nourish" themselves by making healthy food choices that can help reduce their risk of cancer.

Poor nutrition is a risk factor for cancer, and approximately one-third of more than half a million deaths in the U.S. this year can be attributed to factors including poor diet. Being overweight increases one's risk for developing many cancers, including cancer of the breast among post-menopausal women, colon, esophagus and kidney. Unfortunately, statistics show that more than half the adult population in every state is overweight.

"The good news is that there are steps people can take each day to help reduce their risk of cancer. Many people don't think they have much control over their cancer risk, but we know that lifestyle changes can make a big difference," said Colleen Doyle, MS, RD, director of nutrition and physical activity for the American Cancer Society. "Not only can watching what you eat and drink make a difference, watching how much you eat and drink can help too."

According to the American Cancer Society's Guidelines on Nutrition and Physical Activity for Cancer Prevention, a healthy diet with an emphasis on plant sources is important. That means:

•Eating five or more servings of a variety of vegetables and fruits each day.

•Choosing whole grains in preference to processed (refined) grains.

•Limiting consumption of processed and red meats.

The Society's Great American Eat Right Challenge Web site, www.cancer.org/greatamericans, provides tips and tools to help people take steps toward better health through healthier diets and habits like portion control. In addition to information about how to fit more nutrient-packed fruits, vegetables and whole grains into each day, the site features a healthy eating quiz, calorie calculator, and healthy recipes. Visitors can also check their body mass index (BMI) to determine whether or not they are at a healthy weight, and can get some practical tips for achieving and maintaining a healthy weight.

Throughout the year, the Society will help people learn what they can do to maintain a healthy weight and reduce their cancer risk. People without online access can call the American Cancer Society's toll-free number at 1-800-ACS-2345 to receive information on nutrition and physical activity and the Great American Eat Right Challenge.

The Great American Eat Right Challenge is the "Nourish" arm of the American Cancer Society's Great American Health Challenge: "Check, Move, Nourish, Quit." The Great American Health Challenge is a yearly initiative that encourages Americans to adopt healthy lifestyle behaviors to reduce their risk of cancer. The Great American Health Challenge also features the Great American Health Check each January and the Great American Smokeout each November. More information on the Great American Health Challenge is available at www.cancer.org/greatamericans or by calling 1-800-ACS-2345.

The American Cancer Society is dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem by saving lives, diminishing suffering and preventing cancer through research, education, advocacy and service. Founded in 1913 and with national headquarters in Atlanta, the Society has 13 regional Divisions and local offices in 3,400 communities, involving millions of volunteers across the United States. For more information anytime, call toll free 1-800-ACS-2345 or visit www.cancer.org.