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Your Healthy Family: Nearly half of cancer deaths from preventable risk factors

Posted at 9:46 AM, Sep 13, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-13 09:46:12-04

One in six people in the world die from cancer. A recent study looking at global cancer deaths found almost half can be linked to preventable risk factors.

The study in the Journal Lancet found nearly 45 percent of cancer deaths are from behavioral risk factors.

"The percentage is actually extremely high, and the total number worldwide. The study found that nearly four-and-a-half million cancer-related deaths are attributed to behavioral risk factors," Dr. Suneel Kamath, an Oncologist with Cleveland Clinic, said.

Dr. Kamath didn't take part in the study, but said researchers found the leading preventable risk factors attributed to cancer deaths worldwide in 2019 were smoking, alcohol use and obesity. He said carrying excess weight leads to a slightly increased risk for nearly every type of cancer. He also said the study found all types of alcohol are associated with an increased risk of cancer, and tobacco use is especially harmful because there are many types of tumors that are rarely seen in non-smokers.

Dr. Kamath said taking steps today to stop smoking, limit alcohol, and maintain a healthy weight can lower your risk of cancer down the road.

"Making these changes, while very difficult to do, really would be a major improvement – I mean probably, 40-50 percent reduction. For someone who doesn't smoke, maintains a healthy weight, has an active lifestyle, and limits alcohol consumption, I think that would be a massive reduction in cancer risk really across the board," he said.

Dr. Kamath said it's also important to let your healthcare provider know about any family history of cancer, and speak up if something doesn't feel right with your body.