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American Cancer Society: Four in ten cancer cases ‘attributable to modifiable risk factors’

More than four in ten (42 percent) of cancer cases in the United States are linked to risk factors associated with cancer, such as smoking, obesity, poor diet, ultraviolet radiation and physical inactivity, according to a new study conducted by the American Cancer Society. The results of the analysis, published in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, suggest instances of cancer could be significantly reduced using mitigation and prevention strategies, such as not smoking, getting more exercise and a balanced diet. 

The report was compiled utilizing the prevalence of known risk factors and the extent to which they increase cancer risk to estimation the proportion of cancers caused by these factors. To estimate the actual number of cases and deaths, it applied these proportions to actual cancer data for 26 varieties of cancer. 

Breast cancer accounts for the largest proportion of new cancer cases in the United States, followed by prostate cancer, then lung and bronchus cancer, according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cancer accounts for one-quarter of deaths in the United States and in 2014 1.6 million new cases were diagnosed. 

The latest report by the American Cancer Society found cigarette smoking accounted for 19 percent of cancer cases and deaths, the highest proportion of the risk factors examined in the study. This was followed by excess body weight at 7.9 percent, alcohol intake at 5.6 percent, and ultraviolet radiation at 4.7 percent. The most prevalent form of the disease was lung cancer, of which around eight out of ten cases could be linked to evaluated risk factors such as smoking. Lung, liver, colorectal and breast cancer were identified as the most likely to be caused by modifiable risk factors, with seven out of ten instances of liver cancer and five out ten colorectal cancer cases linked to these.

Furthermore, the study also examined the contribution of four key risk factors to cancer cases: excess body weight, alcohol intake, poor diet and lack of physical activity. It found these four factors accounted for 13.9 percent of cases in men and 22.4 percent of cancers in women. 

The authors of the report claim the findings indicate a “continued need for widespread implementation of known preventative measures in the country”, asserting that this could reduce the instances of early death as a result of avoidable exposure to certain risk factors. “Increasing access to preventive health care and awareness about preventive measures should be part of any comprehensive strategy for broad and equitable implementation of known interventions to accelerate progress against cancer,” they stated.