Roundup: More Than 4 in 10 Cancers Linked to Preventable Lifestyle Risk Factors

If you have a healthy diet, don’t smoke, avoid alcohol, maintain an ideal weight and exercise regularly, then you may be able to prevent many cancers, in addition to heart disease and other chronic conditions.

In a new report, researchers with the American Cancer Society say that about 42 percent of cancer cases and 45 percent of cancer deaths in the United States are linked to modifiable risk factors – making them preventable.

The authors used data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Cancer Institute. Researchers said their study improves upon past analyses because they included more risk factors and cancer types — and they used nationally representative and up-to-date data.

The researchers came up with the estimates by calculating how much certain lifestyle factors contributed to 26 different cancer types among adults ages 30 and older. These risk factors included:

  • Cigarette smoking
  • Secondhand smoke
  • Excess body weight
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Eating red and processed meat
  • Diet low in fruits and vegetables, dietary fiber, and dietary calcium
  • Physical inactivity
  • Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or indoor tanning
  • 6 cancer-associated infections – Helicobacter pylori, hepatitis B virus (HBV), hepatitis C virus (HPC), human herpes virus type 8 (HHV8), human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and human papillomavirus (HPV)

Cigarette smoking topped the list as the risk factor most tied to cancer risk. Here are the top five:

  • Cigarette smoking accounted for 19% of all cancer cases and nearly 29% of cancer deaths
  • Excess body weight was responsible for 7.8% of cancer cases and 6.5% of deaths
  • Drinking alcohol was linked to 5.6% of cancer cases and 4% of deaths
  • UV radiation was attributable to almost 5% of cases, but a lower 1.5% of deaths
  • Physical inactivity played into 2.9% of cases and 2.2% of deaths

In separate findings by researchers in London, diabetes and a high BMI of more than 25 were the cause of 6 percent of new cancers worldwide in 2012 — equivalent to 792,600 cases. This is believed to be the first study to quantify the proportion of cancers linked to diabetes and high BMI. The study was published in The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology journal.

Researchers from Imperial College London studied data on 12 different types of cancer cases, in addition to BMI and diabetes information from 175 countries in 2012. Results showed that excess weight and diabetes combined accounted for a quarter of all liver cancers and a third of endometrial cancers, a type of cancer that begins in the uterus. Nearly 30 per cent of breast cancers affecting women are thought to be caused by diabetes and carrying too much weight.

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Fast Eating Linked to Larger Waistelines, Study Says 

People who eat quickly tend to overeat and gain more weight as a result, according to preliminary research presented at an American Heart Association scientific conference held in November.

The study, conducted by researchers in Japan, found fast eaters are more likely to gain weight, have higher blood sugar levels and larger waistlines. The preliminary research data also shows that eating too quickly increases the risk of metabolic syndrome, a condition that represents a group of heart disease, diabetes and stroke risk factors — when compared to those who eat normally or slowly.

Paying attention to how much and how fast you eat often takes a back seat during the festive, food-centered holiday season. While it may be hard to “diet” and lose weight during the holidays, it is possible to maintain weight. That’s the goal of The Holiday Challenge, a free, seven-week online weight maintenance program spearheaded by North Carolina State University to help people prevent gaining weight this time of year.

Weight maintenance tips from the Holiday Challenge and health experts include:

Plan meals – Cook healthy meals that can be prepared in bulk and eaten throughout the week for lunches and dinners. To eat lighter, try substituting a few ingredients with healthier options, such as unsweetened apple sauce instead of oil. And plan your plate, consciously choosing to fill at least half of it with vegetables and enough healthy protein to avoid too many sweets and unhealthy choices.

Schedule physical activity – Set aside specific times between holiday events for exercise. Making exercise as high of a priority as social commitments helps ensure you’ll follow through.

Get enough rest – Research continues to prove that not getting enough sleep is tied to weight gain. Sleep-deprived people eat more and exercise less. A hectic holiday schedule can increase chances of spending time celebrating instead of sleeping. Sticking to sleep routines makes it more likely to get a good night’s sleep.

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