Around half of all cancer deaths in the U.S. are associated with poor diet, cigarette smoking, and other bad health behaviors, a study reveals.
According to the researchers, “modifiable” risk factors are responsible for 45% of cancer deaths. These are risks that are not hereditary, like sun exposure, not eating enough fruits and vegetables, drinking alcohol, and of course, smoking.
The study used 2014 data and was conducted by the American Cancer Society. According to Dr. Otis Brawley, the cancer society’s chief medical officer and one of the study’s authors, it was time to restart those estimates. Smoking accounts for 29% of deaths, leading the risk. Obesity was next at 6.5% and alcohol consumption was third at 4%.
The authors entered different calculations for different kinds of cancer depending on age group and gender to try to see how risk factors affected diverse groups of people, then added them to analyze the bigger picture.
The findings show that 82% of lung cancers were caused by smoking, and 60% of uterine cancers and around 30% of liver cancers were caused by excess body weight. In terms of alcohol consumption, it caused 25% of liver cancers in men and 12% in women; 17% of colorectal cancers in men and 8% in women; and 16% of breast cancers in women. Lastly, 96% of skin cancers in men and 94% in women were associated with extreme sun exposure and tanning beds.
Aside from secondhand cigarette smoke, indoor or outdoor air pollution were not included because the findings on the cancer risk from pollution is not comprehensive enough to recognize the general impact, according to Dr. Farhad Islami, the study’s lead author.
Richard Clapp, a former professor of environmental health at Boston University, says that these new numbers will definitely be cited and used to improve how they spend money on cancer prevention, similar to the significant 1981 British study conducted by researchers Richard Doll and Richard Peto.
Clapp also said that there is still room for improvement. In the future, they might be able to show how more risk factors, such as smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol, might work together in developing certain cancers. Reportedly, smoking rates have dropped, while obesity rates have increased intensely.