Risk factors such as smoking are behind nearly half of cancer deaths, according to the study

Smoking, drinking alcohol, being overweight and other risk factors are responsible for nearly half of all cancer deaths worldwide, according to the largest study of its kind.

Cancer is the second leading cause of death worldwide, and exposure to risk factors plays a key role in the biology and burden of many types of cancer. Doctors do not know the exact causes of cancer, and not all cases or deaths are preventable, but there are risk factors that can increase your chances of developing it.

Now researchers at the University of Washington School of Medicine have become the first to find out how risk factors contribute to cancer deaths worldwide.

Smoking, alcohol consumption and a high body mass index (BMI) are major contributors. In total, risk factors are responsible for nearly 4.45 million cancer deaths per year, according to findings published in the Lancet that used the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors (GBD) study 2019.

This represents 44.4% of all cancer deaths worldwide. Half of all male cancer deaths in 2019 (50.6%, or 2.88 million) were due to estimated risk factors, compared with more than a third of all female cancer deaths (36 .3%, or 1.58 million).

“This study illustrates that the burden of cancer remains a major public health challenge that is growing in magnitude worldwide,” said Dr. Christopher Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation ( IHME) of the University of Washington School. medicine and co-senior author of the study.

“Smoking remains the leading risk factor for cancer globally, with other factors contributing substantially to the burden of cancer. Our findings can help policymakers and researchers identify key risk factors that could be targeted in efforts to reduce cancer deaths and illness at the regional, national and global levels.”

The main risk factors worldwide for cancer deaths in both sexes were smoking, followed by alcohol consumption and a high BMI.

The largest cause of risk-attributable cancer deaths for both women and men globally was cancer of the trachea, bronchus and lung. These represent 36.9% of all cancer deaths attributable to risk factors.

It was followed by cervical cancer (17.9%), colon and rectal cancer (15.8%) and breast cancer (11%) in women. In men, it was colon and rectal cancer (13.3%), esophageal cancer (9.7%) and stomach cancer (6.6%).

The five regions with the highest cancer death rates due to risk factors were Central Europe (82 deaths per 100,000), East Asia (69.8 per 100,000), high-income North America (66 per 100,000 inhabitants), Southern Latin America (64.2 per 100,000 inhabitants). ) and Western Europe (63.8 per 100,000).

Although not all cases or deaths are preventable, Cancer Research UK, the world’s largest independent cancer research organisation, says that quitting smoking, cutting down on alcohol, maintaining a healthy weight, enjoying the sun safely and eating a balanced diet can improve the odds in your favor.

In a linked commentary, Professor Diana Sarfati and Dr Jason Gurney of the University of Otago, New Zealand, who were not involved in the study, said that preventing cancer by eradicating or reducing exposure to risk factors was “our best hope of reducing the future.” burden of cancer”.

“Reducing this burden will improve health and well-being, and alleviate the aggregate effects on humans and fiscal resource pressure on cancer services and the wider health sector,” they said.

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