Researchers from QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute highlighted that 38 percent of cancer death in Australia could be avoided by simply changing the amount of exposure people have to things we know could cause cancer.
Cancer is not a single disease but a wide group with many causes. Some might be genetic, some are connected to lifestyle choices, and others are to do with viruses and infections. The team looked at all 44,000 cancer deaths in Australia in 2013 and showed that a significant portion of these deaths could have been stopped. The study is published in the International Journal of Cancer.
“While in many cases cancer is tragically unavoidable, this study highlights what we’ve known for years: cancer isn’t always a matter of genetics or bad luck. This study shows that in theory, about 17,000 cancer deaths could be prevented each year if people followed accepted guidelines to minimise their exposure to risk factors,” senior author Professor David Whiteman said in a statement. “There is a lot people can do to reduce their risk of developing and dying from cancer.”
The team looked at several modifiable risk factors such as smoking, both active and passive, the type of diet people were following, alcohol consumption, obesity, exposure to too much sunlight, as well as hormonal changes and infections.
“By far the biggest preventable cause of cancer deaths in Australia is tobacco smoke. Cancer caused by smoking and passive smoking killed 9,921 people in 2013 and accounted for 23 percent of all cancer deaths,” Professor Whiteman explained.
“The other major factors were poor diet, being overweight or obese, and infections, which each caused about five percent of all cancer deaths in 2013. Poor diet was responsible for 2,329 deaths from cancer, being overweight or obese for 1,990 deaths, and infections for 1,981 deaths.”
According to the researchers, lung, bowel, melanoma, liver, and stomach cancers were the cancers that could have been avoided. Researchers also discovered that men are more like to have suffered from a form of cancer that could have been prevented. On average men smoke, drink, spend more time in the sun and eat worse than women.
“If you currently smoke, seek advice on how to quit. Limit your intake of red and processed meats and look for opportunities to incorporate extra fruit, vegetables and fibre into your diet. Most Australians don’t get enough exercise, so start introducing some simple physical activity into your routine and aim to maintain a healthy body weight. Finally, always remember to protect yourself from the sun.” Whiteman added.
“Even small improvements in these areas would substantially reduce the number of people who die prematurely from cancer each year.”