42% of All Cancers Down to Factors You Can Change

Risk Factor for All Cancers

According to the American Cancer Society[1], more than 15.5 million Americans with a history of cancer were alive on January 1, 2016. It is estimated that 2017 will end with 1,688,780 new cancer cases and 600,920 deaths due to these severe diseases.

Cancer rates keep growing and a wide range of factors contribute to their incidence and progression. The most recent study identified major risk factor cases and showed you can minimize the risk of developing cancer simply by making changes in your lifestyle.

Modifiable Cancer Risk Factors

Cancer is defined as a class of more than 200 diseases that occur when abnormal cells divide in an uncontrolled manner. Although it tends to start in a specific tissue or organ, cancer usually spreads to surrounding areas and puts a patient’s life in jeopardy. Many cancers are treatable with prompt diagnosis and timely therapy and a vast majority of them can be prevented.

Prevention of cancer starts with lifestyle adjustments. That is the reason why scientists constantly work on new studies whose purpose is to elucidate risk factors that contribute to the development of cancer. Naturally, this type of research has to be updated regularly in order to allow doctors and scientists work on cancer prevention and control measures.

The journal CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians[2] published a study carried out by researchers at the American Cancer Society. The research analyzed 1,570,975 cancer cases. Of these, 587,521 resulted in the death of patients. The analysis also included 17 cancer risk factors and 26 types of these severe diseases.

Risk Factors That Were Included In The Research Are:

  • Alcohol consumption
  • Both first- and second-hand smoking
  • Consumption of processed red meat
  • Diet low in fiber
  • Exposure to UV radiation
  • Low calcium intake
  • Low intake of fruits and vegetables
  • Overweight and obesity
  • Sedentary lifestyle

In order to determine the biggest cancer risk factors, the research team took into account their prevalence and the probability each of them would result in cancer.

Modifable Risk Factor

What Are The Biggest Cancer Risk Factors?

Scientists discovered that about 42% of all cancers and 45% of cancer-related deaths were caused by modifiable risk factors i.e. things you can change. While all risk factors mentioned above do increase* your chances of getting cancer some of them are more dangerous than others. The study showed that top cancer risk factors are smoking, excess weight, and alcohol consumption.

More precisely, 19% of cancer cases and 29% of cancer deaths are associated with cigarette smoking, thus making this bad habit the most important risk factor for all cancers. Overweight and obesity account for 7.8% cancer cases and 6.5% of all cancer-related deaths. On the other hand, 5.6% of all cases of cancer and 4% of deaths are attributed to alcohol use.

To avoid the assumption that all other risk factors have a mild impact on the total number of new cases of cancers and death due to these severe diseases, scientists also revealed that:

  • 2.9% of cancer cases and 2.2% of deaths are down to sedentary lifestyle
  • 4.7% of cancer cases and 1.5% of deaths are caused by UV radiation

The study showed[3] that lung cancer has the highest portion of cases caused by modifiable risk factors. Up to 85.8% of lung cancers could have been prevented. For example, 81.7% of lung cancers are caused by smoking alone.


The latest study identified smoking, excess weight, and alcohol consumption as three biggest risk factors for all cancer cases. A vast majority of cancers could be prevented with lifestyle adjustments. These findings only stress the importance of weight management, quitting smoking, and adopting healthy lifestyle habits.

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Contributor : Dr. Ahmed Zayed (Consumer Health Digest)

This Article Has Been Published on November 30, 2017 and Last Modified on March 14, 2018

Dr. Ahmed Zayed Helmy holds a baccalaureate of Medicine and Surgery. He has completed his degree in 2011 at the University of Alexandria, Egypt. Dr. Ahmed believes in providing knowledgeable information to readers. Other than his passion for writing, currently he is working as a Plastic surgeon and is doing his masters at Ain Shams University. You can connect with him on Linkedin.

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