- In the United States, 4 out of 10 cancer cases and almost half of all deaths from cancer are associated with preventable risk factors.
- Nearly 20 percent of U.S. cancer diagnoses are related to excess body weight, alcohol intake, poor diet, and physical inactivity.
- Many cases of skin cancer could be prevented by protecting the skin from ultraviolet radiation from the sun and indoor tanning devices. (Source: AACR Cancer Report 2018)
Researchers estimate that more than 40 percent of the cancer cases diagnosed in the United States in 2014 and nearly half of all deaths from cancer were caused by potentially avoidable cancer risk factors , including tobacco use, poor diet, alcohol intake, physical inactivity, and obesity (21). In addition, vaccination against infection with the human papillomavirus (HPV) and decreasing exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun and indoor tanning devices can further reduce the burden of certain types of cancer.
That’s pretty dramatic yet is the AMA complicit in these statistics? We have seen the AMA rally against DTC ads and talk about the cost of cancer treatments, but cancer prevention starts with the family doctor. At a minimum every patient who goes to see a doctor should receive information on the leading causes of preventable cancer.
Many cancer risk factors are also risk factors for other chronic diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, respiratory diseases, and diabetes. Thus, public education and policy initiatives to reduce or eliminate exposure to potentially modifiable cancer risk factors have the potential to reduce the burden of several other diseases in addition to cancer. In fact, a recent study showed that adherence to a low-risk lifestyle, such as never smoking, eating healthily, staying active, and limiting alcohol consumption can increase life expectancy by more than a decade.
[inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]A critical issue hindering improvements in public health is our inability to effectively communicate the current knowledge on avoidable cancer risk factors to the general population and implement interventions to minimize these risks.[/inlinetweet] In fact, [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]according to a recent report, most U.S. adults are still unaware of the significant cancer risks associated with obesity and alcohol use (42). This emphasizes the continued need for widespread dissemination of our current knowledge of these cancer risk factors, as well as the implementation of known preventive strategies to reduce risky behaviors in all population groups.[/inlinetweet] In addition to health benefits, effective implementation of preventive measures may also lead to significant economic savings over time.
The fact that most people are unaware of risk factors is unacceptable. The AMA, insurers and even employers need to increase awareness. We did it for smoking, now we need to do it for cancer as well.