Half of Cancer Deaths Could be Prevented by Changing Lifestyle Risk Factors


A study published by researchers from the American Cancer Society November 21, 2017 in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, showed that almost half of all cancers during the year 2014 could have been prevented. These cancers were caused by not changing preventable risks and had these lifestyle risk factors been changed the cancers would most likely have not occurred.

According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI), in 2018, an estimated 1,735,350 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in the United States and 609,640 people will die from the disease. Cancer is still the second leading cause of death after heart disease in the United States. It is estimated that about 38.4% of men and women will be diagnosed with cancer at some point during their lifetimes. The estimated national expenditures for cancer care in the United States in 2017 were $147.3 billion. In future years, costs are likely to increase, as the population ages and the rate of cancer increases. In 2016, there were an estimated 15.5 million cancer survivors in the United States. The number of cancer survivors is expected to increase to 20.3 million by 2026.

Cancer Deaths have Dropped in the United States

Since the early 90s cancer deaths in the United States have dropped by 25% mainly because many people have stopped smoking. In spite of this, smoking still remains the main number one cause of preventable cancer deaths.

Top Preventable Lifestyle Risks for Cancer

According to the American Cancer Society study, the top lifestyle risks for cancer are:

Smoking and Second-hand Smoke

Smoking and second-hand smoke were responsible for the highest numbers of cancers (19%) and cancer deaths (28.8%). Actually, smoking tobacco cigarettes accounted for 55.5% of all cancers that could potentially have been prevented in men and 35% in women. Smoking tobacco cigarettes led to:

  • 81% of lung cancers
  • 73.8% of throat and larynx cancers
  • 50% of cancers of the esophagus
  • 46.9% cancers of the bladder

Excess Body Weight and Obesity

Excess weight and obesity accounted for 7.8% of cancer cases and 6.5% of cancer deaths. Excess body weight was associated with:

  • 60.3% of cancers of the uterus
  • 33.9% of cancers of the liver
  • 11.3% of breast cancers in women
  • 5.2% of colorectal cancers

Alcohol Consumption

Alcoholic drinking was associated with:

  • 46.3% of mouth and throat cancers among men and 27.4% among women
  • 24.8% of liver cancers among men and 11.9% among women
  • 17.1% of colorectal cancers in men and 8.1% among women
  • 16.4% of breast cancers among women

Poor Dietary Choices

Consumption of Processed Meat

Consuming processed meat accounted for 8.2% of colorectal cancers.

Consumption of Red Meat

Consumption of red meat accounted for 5.4% of colorectal cancers.

Low Consumption of Fresh Fruits and Vegetables

Low consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables accounted for:

  •  17.6% Mouth and Throat cancers
  •  17.4% Laryngeal cancers

Low Fruit Consumption accounted for:

  • 8.9% Lung, bronchus and trachea cancers

Low Consumption of Dietary Fiber

Low consumption of dietary fiber accounted for 10.3% of cases of colorectal cancer.

Not Getting Enough Calcium in the Diet

Low dietary calcium in the diet accounted for 4.9% of cases of colorectal cancer.

Not Enough Physical Exercise

Not enough physical exercise was associated with:

  •  cancers of the uterus
  •  colorectal cancers
  • breast cancers in women.

Over Exposure to Ultra violet Radiation

Ultra violet radiation from exposure to the sun and indoor tanning beds cause about 75,000 skin melanomas and a higher number of non-melanoma skin cancers every year in the United States for a total of 4.3 million cancers that could have been prevented.

Infections with an Associated Risk for Cancer

Only infections that can be prevented by vaccines can prevent infection-related cancers such as the Hepatitis B vaccination and the Human papillomavirus (HPV)  vaccination:

  • Helicobacter pylori
  • Hepatitis B virus (HBV)
  • Hepatitis C virus (HCV)
  • Human herpes virus type 8 (HHV8)
  • Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV).

Most Common Cancers in Descending Order

The most common cancers (listed in descending order according to estimated new cases in 2018 are:

  1. Breast cancer
  2. Lung and bronchus cancer
  3. Prostate cancer
  4. Colon and rectum cancer
  5. Melanoma of the skin
  6. Bladder cancer
  7. Non-Hodgkin lymphoma
  8. Kidney and renal pelvis cancer
  9. Endometrial cancer
  10. Leukemia
  11. Pancreatic cancer
  12. Thyroid cancer
  13. Liver cancer

Tobacco is Linked to 12 Types of Cancer

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in their Morbidity and Morality Weekly Report (MMWR) of November 2, 2018, report that tobacco use is the leading preventable cause of cancer and is linked to at least 12 types of cancer:

  1. Acute myeloid leukemia (AML)
  2. Cancers of the mouth and pharynx (throat)
  3. Esophagus
  4. Stomach
  5. Colorectal
  6. Liver
  7. Pancreas
  8. Larynx (voice box)
  9. Lung, bronchus and trachea
  10. Kidney and renal pelvis
  11. Urinary bladder

Short-term Rehabilitation and Long-term Skilled Nursing Care

If  you or your loved one are in need of short-term rehabilitation or long-term skilled nursing care at the hands of a warm and caring staff, check out Park Crescent Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center in East Orange, New Jersey.


It is sad that all of these cancer deaths with all of the human suffering that goes along with them could have been prevented with lifestyle changes.

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