Diet and a healthy lifestyle are important, especially for children. That mantra was on display Wednesday at a policy forum held by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network. 

Researchers, experts, school representatives and parental advocates were among the speakers at the event in Anchorage that placed importance on a myriad of topics, including how long some school kids have to eat their lunch and what happens if they run out of time.  

"Part of this conference is trying to assure that kids have enough time to eat," said Dr. Ward Hurlburt, the state's former Chief Medical Officer. "Five or ten minutes to eat, as we heard, is not very good, and you can eat a candy bar a lot faster than a carrot if that's all you have." 

The leading cause of death in Alaska is cancer. 

According to ACS CAN 18% of cancers are caused by a combination of poor diet, too much alcohol, too little exercise and, ultimately, too much weight. And that's a microcosm of the nation where, according to Hurlburt, 72% of the country is either overweight or obese; only 28% of the country has a normal body mass index, he says.

Hurlburt says the biggest single cause of obesity has been sugar-sweetened drinks like soda.

Carey Carpenter, a parent advocate, says getting kids outside and putting down electronic devices is another factor. She says a pediatrician told her increased amounts of screen time is lowering kids' activity levels. So parents can help their kids live healthier by getting them off the screens and sending them outside.

The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services says about 40% of all diagnosed cancers can be tied to obesity.  

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