Almost half of cancer-related deaths globally can be attributed to preventable risk factors, including the top three risks of smoking, drinking too much alcohol or having a high body mass index, according to a new study.
Research published in the journal The Lancet found that 44.4 percent of all cancer deaths in 2019 could be attributed to risk factors, CNN reported.
The study, 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 researchers found that the leading cancers in terms of risk-attributable deaths globally in 2019 were cancer of the trachea, bronchus and lung.
The data also showed that risk-attributable cancer deaths are on the rise, increasing by 20.4 percent worldwide from 2010 to 2019.
Globally, the five leading regions in terms of risk-attributable mortality rates in 2019 were Central Europe, East Asia, North America, Southern Latin America and Western Europe.
The researchers wrote in the working paper:
“These findings highlight that a significant proportion of the cancer burden globally has the potential for prevention through interventions aimed at reducing exposure to known cancer risk factors. Therefore, efforts to reduce cancer risk should be combined with comprehensive cancer control strategies that include efforts to promote early detection and effective treatment.”
Dr. William Dahut, chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society, told CNN;
“The new study makes clear the importance of primary cancer prevention, and the rising numbers of obesity-related cancers clearly demand our attention. Changing behaviors could save millions of lives, greatly eclipsing the impact of any drug approved so far. Despite the nearly 65-year cancer link, the continuing impact of smoking remains very problematic.”
Dahut emphasized that although smoking is lower in the US than in other countries, related cancer deaths remain a major problem.