According to Cancer Research UK professor, Max Parkin, “Looking at all the evidence, it’s clear that around 40% of all cancers are caused by things we mostly have the power to change.” Parkin claims that many people believe cancer is in the genes, and it comes down to fate whether you develop the condition or not. However, this is not what the researchers found.
Parkin and associates discovered that of the 158,700 cancers diagnosed in men each year, the top six risk factors were tobacco use (23%; 36,500 cases), lack of fruit and vegetables (6.1%; 9,600 cases), occupation (4.9%; 7,800 cases), alcohol use (4.6%, 7,300 cases), obesity (4.1%; 6,500), and sun exposure (3.5%; 5,500).
And among the 155,600 diagnosed in women each year, the top six risk factors were tobacco use (15.6%; 24,300 cases), obesity (6.9%; 10,800 cases), infections (3.7%; 5,800 cases), sun exposure (3.6%; 5,600 cases), lack of fruits and vegetables (3.4%; 5,300 cases), and alcohol use (3.3% 5,100 cases).
Parkin adds, “We didn’t expect to find that eating fruit and vegetables would prove to be so important in protecting men against cancer. And among women we didn’t expect being overweight to have a greater effect than alcohol.”
Since most cancers are known to have more than one cause (for example cervical cancer can be linked to smoking and HPV infection), when you add up the percentage of cases that each factor contributes to, you will find it comes out to more than 100%.
Parkin and colleagues claim that when you add the percentage of cancers that are linked to one or more of the 14 lifestyle and environmental risk factors you get a total of 42.7% (134,000 cases) for men and women, which can be broken down to a figure of 45.3% (72,000) for men, and 40.1% (62,000) for women.
Chief executive of Cancer Research UK, Dr. Harpal Kumar, adds that leading a healthy lifestyle is no guarantee that you won’t get cancer, but this review shows how we can vastly reduce the odds. He concludes, “Stopping smoking, eating a balanced diet, cutting down on alcohol and maintaining a healthy weight could be New Year’s resolutions that help save more lives in the future.”