Study Suggests More Than Half of the Cancer Deaths are Caused by Preventable Risk Factors

risk factors

Almost half the deaths across the globe are because of cancer risk factors, which are preventable. For example, smoking, drinking excessive alcohol or high BMI.

The research was published in The Lancet and revealed that preventable risk factors could cause 44.4% of cancer deaths and 42% of healthy years lost.

Dr Chris Murray and his colleagues wrote,

To our knowledge, this study represents the largest effort to date to determine the global burden of cancer attributable to risk factors, and it contributes to a growing body of evidence aimed at estimating the risk-attributable burden for specific cancers nationally, internationally, and globally

Funded by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the paper analyzed the relationship between cancer and the risk factors. They used data from the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation’s Global Burden of Disease Project.

Moreover, the project analyzes the global data on disability and deaths as well. Murray and his colleagues directly analyzed cancer deaths and disabilities from 2010 to 2019. It involved 204 countries, 23 types of cancer, and 34 risk factors. The cancers in terms of attributable risks causing global deaths include bronchus, tracheal, and lung cancer. In addition, they are found in both men and women.

Furthermore, data also revealed that the risk of attributable cancer is increasing by 20.4% across the globe from 2010 to 2019. The leading five regions include East Asia, Europe, Western Europe, North America, and Southern Latin America.

The researchers wrote,

These findings highlight that a substantial proportion of cancer burden globally has potential for prevention through interventions aimed at reducing exposure to known cancer risk factors but also that a large proportion of cancer burden might not be avoidable through control of the risk factors currently estimated

Thus, cancer risk reduction efforts must be coupled with comprehensive cancer control strategies that include efforts to support early diagnosis and effective treatment.

The new study precisely describes how important prevention of cancer is and the increasing number of cases, due to obesity requires thorough investigation. Dr William Dahut, chief scientific officer of the American Cancer Society said that modifying the behaviour can save lives.

He quoted in an email to CNN,

Modifying behaviour could lead to millions more lives saved greatly overshadowing the impact of any drug ever approved.

He further wrote,

The continued impact of tobacco despite approximately 65 years of a linkage to cancer remains very problematic.

Although the use of tobacco in the US is less in comparison with other countries, cancer deaths caused by tobacco use are a major concern. Moreover, they impact some states in a disproportionate manner.

Furthermore, it has been concluded that cancer prevention is possible through the eradication of risk factors, reducing the burden in the future.

Reducing this burden will improve health and wellbeing, and alleviate the compounding effects on humans and the fiscal resourcing pressure within cancer services and the wider health sector.

Dr Diana Sarfati and Jason Gurney of Te Aho o Te Kahu Cancer Control Agency
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Dr. Armash Shahab is a dentist with a bachelor's degree from Dow University of Health Sciences. She is skilled in general dentistry and is an experienced medical content writer. She also works as a Science Instructor for Little Medical School, which is a STEM-based learning program for kids. Her future plans are to work for the betterment of dentistry for the underprivileged in Pakistan, apply for postgraduation, and specialize in Paediatric Dentistry.


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