New study finds 40% of cancer cases and nearly half of all deaths in the US are linked to modifiable risk factors
4 mins read

New study finds 40% of cancer cases and nearly half of all deaths in the US are linked to modifiable risk factors

New study finds 40% of cancer cases and nearly half of all deaths in the US are linked to modifiable risk factors

40% of cancer cases and nearly half of all deaths in the U.S. are linked to modifiable risk factors. Source: American Cancer Society

A study by researchers from the American Cancer Society (ACS) found that four in ten cancer cases and about half of all cancer deaths in adults aged 30 and older in the United States (713,340 cancer cases and 262,120 cancer deaths in 2019) can be attributed to modifiable risk factors such as smoking, excess body weight, alcohol consumption, physical inactivity, diet, and infections.

Cigarette smoking was by far the leading risk factor, contributing to nearly 20% of all cancer cases and 30% of all cancer deaths. The findings were published in the journal CA: Oncology journal for physicians.

“Despite significant declines in smoking prevalence over the past several decades, the number of lung cancer deaths attributed to cigarette smoking in the United States is alarming,” said Dr. Farhad Islami, senior scientific director of cancer disparities research at the American Cancer Society and lead author of the report.

“This finding underscores the importance of implementing comprehensive tobacco control policies in every state to promote smoking cessation, as well as increased efforts to increase screening for early detection of lung cancer when treatment might be more effective.”

“Interventions to maintain a healthy body weight and diet could also significantly reduce the number of cancer cases and deaths in the country, especially given the rising incidence of several types of cancers associated with excess body weight, particularly in younger people.”

In this study, researchers used nationally representative data on cancer incidence and mortality and the prevalence of risk factors to estimate the proportion and number of cancer cases and deaths attributable to potentially modifiable risk factors overall (excluding nonmelanoma skin cancers) and for 30 cancer types.

Risk factors included cigarette smoking (current and former), passive smoking, excess body weight, alcohol consumption, consumption of red and processed meat, low intake of fruits and vegetables, dietary fiber, and dietary calcium, physical inactivity, ultraviolet (UV) radiation, and infection with Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), Helicobacter pylori, hepatitis B virus (HBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV), human herpes virus 8 (HHV-8; also called Kaposi’s sarcoma virus), human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), and human papillomavirus (HPV).

The results showed that cigarette smoking accounted for the largest population-attributable fraction (PAF), or proportion of cancer cases attributable to risk factors in the population (344,070 cases; 19.3% of all cases), contributing to 56.0% of all potentially preventable cancers in men (206,550 of 368,600) and 39.9% in women (137,520 of 344,740).

The second leading cause of PAF was excess body weight (7.6%), followed by alcohol consumption (5.4%), exposure to UV radiation (4.6%) and lack of physical activity (3.1%).

With respect to cancer type, the proportion of disease attributable to potentially modifiable risk factors ranged from 100% for cervical cancer and Kaposi’s sarcoma to 4.9% for ovarian cancer and exceeded 50% for 19 of the 30 cancer types assessed.

Apart from cervical cancer and Kaposi’s sarcoma, more than 80% of all skin melanomas (92.2%) and cancers of the anus (94.2%), larynx (89.9%), lung and bronchus (88.2%), pharynx (87.4%), trachea (85.6%), esophagus (85.4%) and oral cavity (83.7%) were attributed to the assessed risk factors.

The highest number of lung cancer cases was attributed to assessed risk factors in both men (104,410 cases) and women (97,250), followed by skin melanoma (50,570), colon cancer (44,310) and bladder cancer (32,000) in men, and breast (83,840), endometrial (35,790) and colon cancer (34,130) in women.

“These results show that there is a continuing need to increase equitable access to preventive health care and awareness of preventive measures. Effective vaccines are available against the hepatitis B virus, which causes liver cancer, and the HPV virus, which can cause several types of cancer, including cervical cancer, other genital cancers, and throat cancer,” added Dr. Ahmedin Jemal, senior vice president for oversight and health equity at the American Cancer Society and senior author of the study.

“Vaccination at the recommended time can significantly reduce the risk of chronic infection and, consequently, cancers related to these viruses. HPV vaccination uptake in the United States is suboptimal.”

Other ACS authors who contributed to the study included Dr. Emily Marlow, Dr. Marjorie McCullough, and Dr. Alpa Patel.

More information:
CA: Oncology Journal for Physicians (2024)

Brought to you by the American Cancer Society

Quote:New study finds 40% of cancer cases and nearly half of all deaths in the US are linked to modifiable risk factors (2024, July 11) Retrieved July 11, 2024, from

This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair use for private study or research, no part may be reproduced without written permission. The content is provided for informational purposes only.