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Education About Risk Factors for Both Cancer and CVD Led to Increased Fruit Consumption in Targeted Population

October 17, 2012
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  • Linking risk factors to more than one disease changed behavior.
  • Participants ate more fruit but did not eat more vegetables or increase exercise.
  • It may be difficult to make multiple behavioral changes simultaneously.

ANAHEIM, Calif. — Disease education about overlapping behavioral risk factors for both cancer and cardiovascular disease led to small changes in dietary behavior among a community-based sample of African-American adults, according to data presented at the 11th Annual AACR International Conference on Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research, held here Oct. 16-19, 2012.

“When working with populations that do not meet recommended guidelines for health promotion and disease prevention, we found that a more impactful way to help them understand the implications of their decisions was to help them understand that one risky behavior, such as poor diet, is associated with the likelihood of developing multiple diseases,” said Melanie S. Jefferson, M.P.H., research coordinator at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston.

Jefferson and colleagues conducted a randomized trial to evaluate the effect of two risk-factor education programs among 212 African-American adults. Researchers assigned participants to either the integrated risk counseling protocol or the disease-specific protocol.

Participants assigned to the integrated risk counseling protocol received education about the overlap in behavioral risk factors for cancer and cardiovascular disease. Those in the disease-specific group received education only about behavioral risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Both protocols included techniques from motivational interviewing and interactive activities designed to increase fruit and vegetable intake and physical activity.

Participants provided self-reported feedback at baseline and after one month of each protocol.

Researchers found that participants assigned to the integrated counseling protocol increased fruit intake significantly compared with those assigned to the disease-specific protocol. At baseline, only 37.4 percent of participants in the integrated risk counseling group met recommended guidelines for fruit intake. By follow-up, that number increased to 57.4 percent. In contrast, 31.1 percent of patients in the disease-specific group met fruit recommendations at baseline. After one month of counseling, 41.5 percent met the recommendation.

No significant increases were found in vegetable intake or physical activity.

“Our findings suggest that behavioral risk-factor education has some short-term benefits in terms of changing health behaviors. However, it may be difficult for individuals from medically underserved populations to make multiple behavioral changes at once,” Jefferson said. “Future studies are needed to determine if there are differences in responses to interventions that address one versus multiple behavior changes in populations that have limited financial and health care resources.”                    

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About the American Association for Cancer Research
Founded in 1907, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) is the world’s first and largest professional organization dedicated to advancing cancer research and its mission to prevent and cure cancer. AACR membership includes more than 34,000 laboratory, translational and clinical researchers; population scientists; other health care professionals; and cancer advocates residing in more than 90 countries. The AACR marshals the full spectrum of expertise of the cancer community to accelerate progress in the prevention, biology, diagnosis and treatment of cancer by annually convening more than 20 conferences and educational workshops, the largest of which is the AACR Annual Meeting with more than 17,000 attendees. In addition, the AACR publishes seven peer-reviewed scientific journals and a magazine for cancer survivors, patients and their caregivers. The AACR funds meritorious research directly as well as in cooperation with numerous cancer organizations. As the scientific partner of Stand Up To Cancer, the AACR provides expert peer review, grants administration and scientific oversight of team science and individual grants in cancer research that have the potential for near-term patient benefit. The AACR actively communicates with legislators and policymakers about the value of cancer research and related biomedical science in saving lives from cancer.

For more information about the AACR, visit www.AACR.org.

Media Contact:
Jeremy Moore
(215) 446-7109
Jeremy.Moore@aacr.org
In Anaheim, Oct. 16-19:
(714) 740-4540

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