4 in 10 cancers preventable by adopting simple lifestyle changes

In a new research that comes via the American Cancer Society, it has been seen that over 40 percent of all cancers and nearly one in two cancer deaths can be prevented by incorporating simple lifestyle changes in daily routines.

The study titled, “Proportion and number of cancer cases and deaths attributable to potentially modifiable risk factors in the United States” was published in CA: Cancer Journal for Clinicians led by authors Farhad Islami, Ann Goding Sauer, Kimberly D Miller and colleagues.

The report says that over 12.7 million people each year are diagnosed with cancer and annually there are around 7.6 million deaths due to cancer. The new study looked at cancer statistics in the United States in 2014. Some of the known culprits include cigarette smoking and passive smoking, obesity and being overweight, excess consumption of alcohol and red meat, lack of physical activity, low intake of fruits, vegetables, dietary fiber and dietary calcium etc. Exposure to ultraviolet radiation from sun and the six infections that lead to cancer including hepatitis C, HPV (for cervical cancer in women) and HIV AIDS are other leading causes of cancers. These causes have been associated with 26 different types of cancers among people aged 30 and above the report finds.

The team of researchers obtained the number of cancer deaths and incidences from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Cancer Institute. They obtained the presence and absence of risk factors among these cancer patients from nationally representative surveys and other large studies that looked at relative risks associated with cancer. They note that in 2014, there was an association of 42.0% (coming up to 659,640 of 1570,975 cancers without taking into account the nonmelanoma type of skin cancers) that were associated with the risk factors that were evaluated. There were 45.1% of cancer deaths (an estimated 265,150 of 587,521 deaths) that were associated with these risk factors.

The researchers write that around half of the deaths related to cancer could have been prevented. Many of these instances could have been “mitigated by effective preventive strategies, such as excise taxes on cigarettes to reduce smoking and vaccinations against HPV and HBV infections,” they write. Cigarette smoking for example was found to be the most dangerous of all cancer causing factors accounting “for the highest proportion of cancer cases (19.0 percent or 298,970 cases) and deaths (28.8 percent or 169,180 deaths).” Being obese and overweight too followed close at its heels causing 7.8 percent of cases and 6.5 percent of deaths.

Excess alcohol consumption led to 5.6 percent of cases and 4 percent of deaths the researchers noted coming in a close third. Lifestyle choices also raised risk of lung cancers, colorectal cancers and skin cancers. There were an estimated 76,910 cases of colorectal cancer and 28,290 deaths due to the cancer. The study showed that after heart disease, colorectal cancer is the commonest cause of death being responsible for one in four deaths of individuals.

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