Many of the Australians who die from cancer every year could well have prevented their illness, finally confirming what’s long been known about cancer but never quantified: cancer isn’t just down to genetics and bad luck.
A study by the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute has found that 38 percent of cancer deaths could be completely preventable, and identified eight lifestyle factors that caused some people to have a higher likelihood of developing cancer.
Those risk factors are: smoking (and also passive smoking), a poor diet (one that’s low in fruit, vegetables and fibre and/or with excess red and processed meat), excessive alcohol consumption, obesity, a low level of physical activity, excessive sun exposure, exposure to infections including hepatitis C and human papillomavirus, and use of menopausal hormone therapy.
This is bad news for older women using MHT to ease their menopause symptoms. Without hormone therapy, women can suffer extreme pain and discomfort. MHT is used to help out with hot flushes, night sweats, sleep disturbances, psychological problems urinary problem, and vaginal dryness.
Studies in the past, however, highlighted that taking undertaking MHT may increase the risk of breast cancer and heart disease.
The researchers found that 16,700 cancer deaths a year could be avoided if individuals were to take action to avoid these risk factors.
Professor David Whiteman, head of QIMR Berghofer’s cancer control group, said that lifestyle factors were found to cause 41 percent of cancer deaths in Aussie men and 34 percent in women.
“By far the biggest preventable cause of cancer deaths in Australia is tobacco smoke,” he said. “The other major factors were poor diet, being overweight or obese, and infections
“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.”
Whiteman said the research underlined a sad truth about cancer deaths.
“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.”
Sanchia Aranda, the CEO of Cancer Council Australia, says the results should prompt Australians to have a long, hard look at their lifestyle.
“Australians need to remember that the best way to increase their chances of a long and healthy life is to take steps to reduce their risk of getting cancer or other lifestyle-related diseases,” she said.