Lifestyle changes may prevent 50% of cancer cases

The latest World Cancer Report emphasises the importance of prevention in reducing incidences of the disease, over 14 million of which were reported in 2012.

Earlier this year, the World Health Organisation released its 2014 World Cancer Report, which lays out how cancer currently affects the global population and how they foresee it developing over the next few years.

The report emphasises the importance of prevention in reducing incidences of the disease, over 14 million of which were reported in 2012.

Prevention and early detection
This number is expected to continue to grow, especially in low and middle income countries. The most common cancers in poorer countries are those caused by infections, such as cervical cancer resulting from human papillomavirus (HPV), and cancers associated with poor lifestyle.

Developing countries in Africa, Asia and South America account for 70% of global cancer deaths. Here, smoking, alcohol, sugar intake and obesity are all linked to a substantially increased risk of developing cancer. In developed countries such as Australia, the rise of cancer is furthermore linked to increased screening and an ageing population.

“Despite exciting advances, the report shows that we can’t treat our way out of the cancer problem. More commitment to prevention and early detection is desperately needed in order to complement improved treatments and address the alarming rise in the cancer burden globally,” said co-author Dr Christopher Wild in his preface to the report.

Lung cancer the biggest killer
The report points out that lung cancer is the most common form of cancer among men worldwide, accounting for 16.7% of cases, as well as the biggest killer, making up 23.6% of all cancer deaths.

Breast cancer is still the most common form of cancer in women, but the number of deaths resulting from it has dropped to just ahead of lung cancer. These two cancers are responsible for 14.7% and 13.8% of deaths respectively, with over 25% of cancer cases in women being breast cancer.

Tobacco smoke contains more than 4,500 chemical compounds, 43 of them known carcinogens. Furthermore, the health risks of cigarette smoking are not limited to smokers. A non-smoker’s risk of developing lung cancer is significantly increased by being exposed to carcinogens present in environmental tobacco smoke.

The World Cancer Report authors emphasise the importance of quitting smoking to prevent cancer. Following a healthy diet, getting regular physical activity and avoiding alcohol are other important steps in lowering your risk. In Australia, melanoma, a type of skin cancer, also remains a significant problem. For this reason, sun protection remains extremely important.

The authors believe that up to half of cancer cases globally could be avoided through reasonable lifestyle changes.
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