New research finds that almost half of cancer cases in the United States are caused by potentially modifiable exposures. Smoking, drinking, and excess body weight remain as top cancer factors.

Modifiable Cancer Risk Factors

A new study published in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians focused on looking into the number of cancer cases and death that is attributable to modifiable or changeable factors such as vices, body weight, and physical inactivity.

Specifically, researchers estimated the number of cancer cases and death overall for 26 types of cancer in adults over the age of 30 in the United States that may be attributed to preventable exposures. These include secondhand smoke exposure, smoking, excessive body weight, high consumption of red meat and processed meat, low consumption of fruits and vegetables, physical inactivity, and alcohol intake.

Smoking, Body Weight, And Alcohol Intake

Using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI), researchers of the study found that an estimated 42 percent of cancer incidences and 45.1 percent of cancer deaths can be associated with such exposures.

Among the risk factors, cigarette smoking proved to have the highest association with cancer cases at 19 percent and 28.8 percent of cancer deaths. Excess body weight comes in second with 7.8 percent and 6.5 percent proportion of cases and death, respectively, followed by alcohol intake with 5.6 percent of cancer cases and 4 percent of cancer deaths. Among cancer cases, lung cancer remains on top, accounting for 184,970 cases and 132,960 deaths. Colorectal cancer follows with 76,910 cases and 28,290 deaths.

Cancer In The United States

In 2014, the latest year with available incidence data, there were 1,596,486 new cases of cancer and 591,686 deaths from it. It is the second leading cause of death after heart disease and is responsible for one in four deaths in the country.

Breast cancer tops the chart for most new cancer cases, followed by prostate cancer and bronchus or lung cancer. However, when it comes to cancer rate deaths, lung cancer tops the list, followed by breast and prostate cancer.

Preventive Strategies

Results of the study show that a large chunk of cancer cases in the United States may be attributable to preventable factors. As such, researchers surmise that preventive strategies focusing on preventing exposure may reduce the number of cases and deaths from cancer.

"Increasing access to preventive health care and awareness about preventive measures should be part of any comprehensive strategy for broad and equitable implementation of interventions to accelerate progress against cancer," noted researchers in their study.

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