Nearly half of cancer deaths worldwide are attributable to preventable risk factors, new study finds

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“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 burden attributable to risk for specific cancers at nationally, internationally and globally,” wrote Dr. Chris Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, and his colleagues in the study.

The article, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, analyzed the relationship between risk factors and cancer, the second leading cause of death worldwide, using data from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation’s Global burden of disease project.

The project collects and analyzes global data on death and disability. Murray and his colleagues focused on cancer deaths and disability from 2010 to 2019 in 204 countries, looking at 23 types of cancer and 34 risk factors.

The leading cancers in terms of risk-attributable deaths worldwide in 2019 were trachea, bronchus and lung cancers in both men and women, the researchers found.

The data also showed that cancer deaths attributable to risk are on the rise, increasing by 20.4% globally between 2010 and 2019. Globally, in 2019, the top five regions in terms of death rates attributable to risk were Central Europe, East Asia, South America, Latin America and Western Europe.

“These results highlight that a substantial proportion of the global cancer burden has potential for prevention through interventions to reduce exposure to known cancer risk factors, but also that a large part of the burden cancer may not be preventable through control of currently estimated risk factors,” the researchers wrote. “Thus, cancer risk reduction efforts must be combined with comprehensive cancer control strategies that include efforts to support early diagnosis and effective treatment.”

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The new study “clearly delineates” the importance of primary cancer prevention and “the growing number of obesity-related cancers clearly demands our attention,” said Dr. William Dahut, scientific director of the American Cancer Society, who did not participate in the new study. , wrote in an email to CNN.

“Behavioral modification could save millions more lives, dramatically eclipsing the impact of any drug ever approved,” he wrote, adding, “Tobacco’s continued impact despite approximately 65 years of association with cancer remains very problematic.

Although tobacco use in the United States is lower than in other countries, tobacco-related cancer deaths continue to be a major problem and have a disproportionate impact on some states, Dahut wrote.

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A separate study, published earlier this month in the International Journal of Cancer, found that the estimated proportion of cancer deaths in 2019 attributable to smoking among adults aged 25 to 79 ranged from 16.5% in Utah to 37.8% in Kentucky. Estimated total revenue losses due to cancer deaths attributable to smoking ranged from $32.2 million in Wyoming to $1.6 billion in California.

“Furthermore, it is no secret that alcohol consumption along with the dramatic increase in median BMI will lead to a significant number of preventable cancer deaths,” Dahut added. “Finally, cancer screening is especially important in those at increased risk as we move towards a world where screening is accuracy-based and adaptable.”

In an editorial that was published alongside the new study in The Lancet, Dr Diana Sarfati and Jason Gurney of the Te Aho o Te Kahu Cancer Agency in New Zealand wrote that avoidable risk factors associated with cancer tend to be determined on the basis of poverty .

“Poverty influences the environments in which people live, and these environments shape the lifestyle decisions people are able to make. Action to prevent cancer requires a concerted effort within and without This action includes specific policies focused on reducing exposure to cancer-causing risk factors, such as tobacco and alcohol consumption, and access to vaccines that prevent infections carcinogens, including hepatitis B and HPV,” Sarfati and Gurney wrote.

“Primary cancer prevention through the eradication or mitigation of modifiable risk factors is our best hope for reducing the future burden of cancer,” they wrote. “Reducing this burden will improve health and well-being, and mitigate cumulative human effects and fiscal resource pressure within cancer services and the broader health sector.”

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