A new, first-of-its-kind global study found that almost half (44.4% to be exact) of all cancer deaths are caused by preventable risk factors.
The study's conductors, publishing their work in The Lancet in August, used 2019 data on cancer cases and deaths across 200+ countries. They found excess drinking, smoking, and high body-mass index (BMI) to be the top three avoidable risk factors.
Unhealthy diets, unsafe sex, and workplace exposure to carcinogenic substances like asbestos were also found to meaningfully contribute.
While these findings confirm results from past studies, they do so at a greater scale and with notable added insights...
The issue is bigger with men. Over half of all male cancer deaths are preventable versus ~1/3 of all female cancer deaths.
The issue is getting worse. From 2010 to 2019, preventable deaths increased by 20%. Excess weight accounted for the largest percentage of increase.
COVID's impact here will be mixed. On one hand, preventable cancer deaths will occur due to COVID-related diagnostic delays. On the other hand, work-from-home has reduced workers' exposure to harmful chemicals.
For society, this study is a step in the right direction. The data is useful for policymakers creating cancer-control plans (e.g., tobacco tax structures).
For individuals, cancer epidemiologist Rudolf Kaaks puts it simply and well: “Don’t smoke, don’t get overweight, and don’t drink too much alcohol.”