Study: cancer death is avoidable

Medical researchers have found that around 17,000 Australian lives could be saved each year, revealing that almost 40 per cent of cancer deaths are potentially avoidable.

According to researchers from QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, smoking, poor diet, eating too much red meat, lack of exercise, poor sun awareness and excessive alcohol intake are responsible for cancer deaths that could be dodged.

The study analysed 20 modifiable risk factors internationally accepted as being causes for cancer. It examined data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) statistics and the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) to estimate how many of the total cancer deaths could have, in theory, been avoided or prevented.

Researchers found that modifiable risk factors were the cause of 34 per cent of cancer deaths among women and 41 per cent in men.

In 2013, smoking accounted for around 10,000 of Australia’s 44,000 cancer deaths. Smoking contributes to at least a dozen cancers.

“The proportions of potentially preventable cancer deaths are higher among men than women because, on average, men smoke and drink more, spend more time in the sun and don’t eat as well,” said lead researcher Professor David Whiteman.

Infections contribute to around five per cent of all Australian cancer deaths annually, and the main cancer culprits are skin, lung, bowel, stomach and liver cancer.

The study focused on modifiable risks outside of background genetic risk and didn’t account for environmental cancer causes, such as air pollution and exposure to radiation, because it is not quantifiable.

“While in many cases cancer is tragically unavoidable, this study highlights what we’ve known for years: cancer isn’t always a matter of genetics or bad luck.”

While the study highlights the need for lifestyle changes, Prof Whiteman was quick to point out that the research did not intend to blame people for poor choices.

QIMR institute has published recommendations that may reduce your risk of cancer.

Are you confident in your lifestyle choices?

Related articles:
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Why holidays are bad for your health
What smoking does to your body

Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.
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