May 3, 2010 / 10:17 PM / 9 years ago

Ellen Pompeo launches cancer prevention campaign

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Ellen Pompeo, star of the TV show “Grey’s Anatomy,” is stepping beyond her surgeon’s role in the hit medical drama to encourage women to make their own health a priority to prevent cancer.

The disease affects one in three women in the United States during their lifetime. Pompeo, a new mother and the daughter of a cancer survivor, said women are vital to battling and stopping the illness.

“Cancer is something that touches everyone’s lives,” Pompeo explained in an interview. “Women are busy taking care of other people. This is about choosing yourself.”

Together with the American Cancer Society, Pompeo will launch a national campaign on Tuesday about cancer prevention.

About half of all cancer deaths could be prevented by early detection, maintaining a healthy weight and diet, wearing sunscreen and avoiding tobacco products, according to the American Cancer Society.

“My daily schedule is quite hectic, but I have to put my health first in order to be the best mom and wife I can be,” Pompeo said.

A national American Cancer Society online survey of about 2,000 women in March showed that 90 percent said they fall short of eating a healthy diet.

About 85 percent do not get the minimum daily exercise of 30 minutes a day, five days a week, and 76 percent do not always protect their skin from the sun.

“Women hold the keys to cancer prevention because they are the chief medical and chief operating officers of their individual households,” said Elizabeth Fontham, of the American Cancer Society. “But they really struggle to make their own health a priority.”

Reporting by Walden Siew; Editing by Patricia Reaney

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