Half of US cancer deaths are due to 'modifiable' risk factors: study

According to a study by the American Cancer Society, four in 10 cancer cases and about half of cancer deaths among U.S. adults aged 30 and older in 2019 were linked to “modifiable” risk factors such as smoking, drinking, poor diet and not getting vaccinated. a new study from the American Cancer Society.

Lead study author Farhad Islami, scientific director of cancer disparities research at the American Cancer Society, explains that modifiable risk factors are typically behavioral in nature.

“When we say ‘potentially modifiable,’ those are the risk factors that we have the resources and tools to change,” he told The Hill.

The study findings were published in the medical journal CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, which also flagship magazine from the American Cancer Society.

Researchers from the American Cancer Society used data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and the National Cancer Institute's Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results Program to determine the number of cancer cases and deaths in the United States in 2019.

In addition, researchers determined the prevalence of risk factors by averaging three rounds of the National Health Interview Survey.

What they found was that 713,340 cases of cancer, or about 40 percent of all cancer cases, and 262,120 cancer deaths for 30 types of cancer — including lung, breast and skin cancer — could be attributed to behavioral risk factors.

According to the study, smoking was the most common behavioral risk factor, contributing to 20 percent of all cancer cases and 30 percent of all cancer deaths.

“Despite significant declines in smoking prevalence over the past few decades, the number of lung cancer deaths in the United States attributable to cigarette smoking is alarming,” Islami said.

Obesity was the second most common modifiable risk factor, contributing to 7.6 percent of cancer cases and 7.3 percent of deaths. Drinking alcohol was associated with 5.4 percent of cancer cases and 4.1 percent of cancer deaths.

The study found that one modifiable risk factor, HPV infection, contributed to 100 percent of cervical cancer cases and deaths in the US that year.

The best way for adults to protect themselves from cancers caused by HPV infection is to get vaccinated against the virus. But HPV vaccination rates in the U.S. have stagnated at about 47 percent since 2019. a study found.

Other cancers strongly associated with modifiable risk factors were skin cancer, anal cancer, laryngeal cancer, lung cancer, and oral cancer.

The study shows that over 92 percent of anal cancer cases are related to a modifiable risk factor, such as an infection. Also, 94 percent of laryngeal cancer cases and almost 90 percent of lung cancer cases are related to a modifiable risk factor.

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