Almost half of global cancer deaths caused by preventable risks, study says

Published: Aug. 24, 2022 at 9:07 AM CDT
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(CNN) - According to a new global study, almost half of all deaths due to cancer can be attributed to preventable risk factors.

The top three risk factors are tobacco use, drinking too much alcohol or having a high body mass index.

A potentially lifechanging and lifesaving study could change the way people prevent and treat cancer.

According to the medical journal The Lancet, about 44% of all cancer deaths in 2019 may have been due to preventable risk factors.

The findings amazed, if not entirely shocked, those who treat cancer patients every day.

“To know that nearly half the cancer deaths in the world could be prevented is just astounding,” said Dr. William Dahut, chief scientific officer of the American Cancer Society.

Using data from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation’s Global Burden of Disease project, the study examined 23 cancer types and 34 risk factors. They found three major risk factors stood out.

The first one, perhaps not surprising, was tobacco use.

The second, drinking too much alcohol.

“Obviously many people in this country drink alcohol moderately and reasonable amounts,” Dahut said. “But heavy alcohol use can actually lead to a significant number of cancers, liver cancers and other types of tumors.”

The third risk was a high body mass index.

Dahut said the good news here, all of these can be changed by making some tough but necessary lifestyle changes.

“Reach out to others or health care providers or support groups to get the help you need, because these are not easy things to change,” he said.

He emphasized the importance of these findings simply cannot be overstated.

“You know, imagine if we had a drug that came along like this,” Dahut said. “That you could take this drug with sort of minimal side effects, relatively low cost and could prevent cancer. You know, we would be shouting from the rooftops.”