The fraction of cancer attributable to lifestyle and environmental factors in the UK in 2010

Source:Study published in British Journal of Cancer

This large study analyzes the percentage of cancers—diagnosed in 2010 in the United Kingdom—possibly attributable to exposures of 14 common lifestyle, dietary and environmental risk factors: tobacco, alcohol, bodyweight, physical exercise, occupation, infections, radiation (ionizing and solar), reproductive history (breast feeding), post-menopausal hormone use and intake of certain foods (fruits and vegetables, meat, fiber and salt).
Researchers studied 18 different cancers (e.g., breast, stomach, liver, colon, ovary, bladder and lung) and men and women’s likelihood of getting a cancer based on levels of exposure to the above factors. Overall, the 14 exposures were responsible for 42 percent of cancers in the U.K. (134,000 cases). Four common factors—tobacco, diet, bodyweight and alcohol—accounted for 34 percent of the cancers. Smoking tobacco was the most important, as it was responsible for 19.4 percent of new cancers.
Next was intake of four food types, as improper consumption accounted for nearly 10 percent of diagnoses. In men, deficient intake of fruits and vegetables, alcohol consumption and occupational exposures were high risks; in women, overweight/obesity and infections were high risks.
The authors conclude most cancers are attributable to sub-optimal exposure of various risk factors; however, some lifestyle factors (e.g., alcohol and tobacco) can act as carcinogens when combined, increasing one’s risk of getting cancer. This study contributes to what is known about causes of cancer and the risk of certain lifestyle and environmental factors.
But awareness is half the battle. As the authors note, drastic changes in lifestyle and prevention practices must occur to see a significant decrease in cancer in a reasonable timeframe (a few decades).