One Third of Cancer Deaths Avoidable -- MEDICA Trade Fair

Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) estimated mortality for 12 types of cancer linked to nine risk factors in seven World Bank regions for the year 2001. The researchers also looked at how the risks, and the cancers they cause, were distributed over the regions of the world. This is the first assessment of the role of health risks in cancer deaths globally and regionally.

The nine risk factors were overweight and obesity, low fruit and vegetable intake, physical inactivity, smoking, alcohol use, unsafe sex, urban air pollution, indoor smoke from household use of coal and contaminated injections in healthcare settings.

They found that more than one in every three of the seven million deaths from cancer worldwide was caused by these nine potentially modifiable risk factors (2.43 million), with alcohol and smoking playing large roles in all income levels and regions. Worldwide, the nine risk factors caused 1.6 million cancer deaths among men and 830,000 among women. Smoking alone is estimated to have caused 21 percent of deaths from cancer worldwide.

In high-income countries, these nine risks caused 760,000 cancer deaths; smoking, alcohol, and overweight and obesity were the most important causes of cancer in these nations. In low- and middle-income regions the nine risks caused 1.67 million cancer deaths; and smoking, alcohol consumption and low fruit and vegetable intake were the leading risk factors for these deaths. Sexual transmission of human papillomavirus is the leading risk factor for cervical cancer in women in low- and middle-income countries, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, where access to cervical screening is also limited.

The findings appear in the November 19, 2005 issue of the journal The Lancet.; Source: Harvard School of Public Health