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Alcohol, smoking and a high body mass index (BMI) are the preventable risk factors attributable to nearly half of all global cancer deaths, according to a new study funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The study, published Thursday in The Lancet, examined cancer cases from 2019 and found that 44% of cancer deaths were caused by preventable risk factors. The three main risk factors were smoking, drinking a lot of alcohol and a high BMI. Both male and female patients experienced the same risk factors.
Around the world, the study indicated that 42% of the disability-adjusted life years, or healthy years a person loses due to cancer, were also due to those risk factors.
Adjusted for the income classes of certain regions, the risk factors did vary. For lower-income countries, unsafe sex was one of the main risk factors, while higher-income regions experienced the original three global risk factors.
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The study used data collected by the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation’s Global Burden of Disease project to analyze global cancer deaths and disabilities.
“To our knowledge, this study represents the largest effort to date to determine the global burden of cancer attributable to risk factors, and it adds to a growing body of evidence aimed at estimating the risks associated with it.” to write burden for specific cancers at the national, international and international levels worldwide,” researchers at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation said in the study.
“While some cancers are not preventable, population-level governments can work to create an environment that minimizes exposure to known cancer risk factors,” researchers said. “Primary prevention, or preventing the development of cancer, is a particularly cost-effective strategy, although it must be accompanied by more comprehensive efforts to address the cancer burden, including secondary prevention initiatives, such as screening programs, and ensuring an effective capacity to diagnose and treat people with cancer.”
The researchers also noted that government policies, such as the high taxes and regulation of tobacco products, are making “significant progress.”
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“Behavioral risk factors are strongly influenced by the environment in which people live and people with cancer should not be blamed for their disease,” the researchers clarify.
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