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Leading Controllable Factors Responsible for Half of Cancer Deaths in the US

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Leading Controllable Factors Responsible for Half of Cancer Deaths in the US

November 30
18:50 2017

There are over 200 different forms of cancer known to modern medicine. Many of them are quite rare which is good and bad. It’s good that few people are afflicted by them and yet it’s bad because little research is done on rare cancers. Most of the money and research concentrates on the more common types of cancers, leaving rarer forms of cancer as the orphans of the research community.

Some cancers are caused by genetic mutations or abnormalities, such as some of the prevalent forms of breast cancer. People with certain genetic disorders can also be more prone to developing tumors, some of which can be cancerous.

As I’ve shared before, my oldest daughter, now 41, has a very rare non-hereditary genetic mutation which occurred in her early embryonic development that is known as McCune Albright Syndrome. One of the results of MAS are tumors throughout the body, some of which can be cancerous. She has had one tumor that was noncancerous but it did created a number of other health problems and doctors are monitoring a small nodule they suspect may be a tumor in one of her lungs. We don’t know if it is cancerous yet, but doctors don’t think it is at this point.

Many cancers are preventative such as skin cancer by limiting exposure to the sun and using adequate sunscreen lotion. A number of other cancers are also caused by things that we can control, reducing or increasing our risks.

A new study conducted by a group of 14 doctors and researchers at various institutions sheds some light on the cancer in the US. Here is their opening introduction:

“Much progress against cancer has been made in the United States over the past several decades, as evidenced by the 25% decline in the cancer mortality rate since 1991. However, the cancer burden remains substantial, with more than 1.6 million newly diagnosed cases and 600,000 deaths estimated to occur in 2017. The costs associated with cancer morbidity and premature mortality are staggering, with approximately $88 to $124 billion per year for direct medical costs alone.”

Hopefully, that is enough to get your attention, but allow me to put this in a different perspective. The number of cancer deaths expected this year is equivalent to the entire population of Milwaukee, Wisconsin or Las Vegas, Nevada. Just think of a disease that wipes out the entire population of either one of these cities and that’s just this year. Then realize that this happens every year.

The number of newly diagnosed cases of cancer this year is more than the population of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania or Phoenix, Arizona. That’s a lot of new cancer cases in just one year. Again, realize that this happens every year.

So, what are the factors that you can control to reduce your risk of developing some form of cancer? According to the study:

“Contemporary information on the fraction of cancers that potentially could be prevented is useful for priority setting in cancer prevention and control. Herein, the authors estimate the proportion and number of invasive cancer cases and deaths, overall (excluding nonmelanoma skin cancers) and for 26 cancer types, in adults aged 30 years and older in the United States in 2014, that were attributable to major, potentially modifiable exposures (cigarette smoking; secondhand smoke; excess body weight; alcohol intake; consumption of red and processed meat; low consumption of fruits/vegetables, dietary fiber, and dietary calcium; physical inactivity; ultraviolet radiation; and 6 cancer-associated infections). The numbers of cancer cases were obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Cancer Institute; the numbers of deaths were obtained from the CDC; risk factor prevalence estimates were obtained from nationally representative surveys; and associated relative risks of cancer were obtained from published, large-scale pooled analyses or meta-analyses. In the United States in 2014, an estimated 42.0% of all incident cancers (659,640 of 1570,975 cancers, excluding nonmelanoma skin cancers) and 45.1% of cancer deaths (265,150 of 587,521 deaths) were attributable to evaluated risk factors. Cigarette smoking accounted for the highest proportion of cancer cases (19.0%; 298,970 cases) and deaths (28.8%; 169,180 deaths), followed by excess body weight (7.8% and 6.5%, respectively) and alcohol intake (5.6% and 4.0%, respectively). Lung cancer had the highest number of cancers (184,970 cases) and deaths (132,960 deaths) attributable to evaluated risk factors, followed by colorectal cancer (76,910 cases and 28,290 deaths). These results, however, may underestimate the overall proportion of cancers attributable to modifiable factors, because the impact of all established risk factors could not be quantified, and many likely modifiable risk factors are not yet firmly established as causal. Nevertheless, these findings underscore the vast potential for reducing cancer morbidity and mortality through broad and equitable implementation of known preventive measures.”

I recommend that every person take a good look at themselves in the mirror. Then spend some time reviewing your lifestyle and habits. Chances are that most of you will realize you need to make changes. However, trying to change too many things at the same time is usually too overwhelming and doomed to failure. Read through the risk factors above again and then determine which risk factor you are going to work on first. Sometimes they can be combined such as dieting and exercise, but don’t take on too many at once, but do start. Your family and loved ones will appreciate having you around longer.

FYI – I’m getting back on my diet and my treadmill to reduce my weight and increase activity and exercise.

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