Half of all cancers are preventable: study
AFPWASHINGTON -- Half of all cancers could be prevented if people just adopted healthier behaviors, U.S. scientists argued on Wednesday.
March 30, 2012, 12:05 am TWN
Smoking is blamed for a third of all U.S. cancer cases and being overweight leads to another 20 percent of the deadly burden that costs the United States some US$226 billion per year in health care and lost productivity.
For instance, up to three quarters of U.S. lung cancer cases could be avoided if people did not smoke, said the review article in the U.S. journal Science Translational Medicine.
Science has shown that plenty of other cancers can also be prevented, either with vaccines to prevent human papillomavirus and hepatitis, which can cause cervical and liver cancers, or by protecting against sun exposure, which can cause skin cancer.
Society as a whole must recognize the need for these changes and take seriously an attempt to instill healthier habits, said the researchers.
Exercising, eating right and refraining from smoking are key ways to prevent up to half of the 577,000 deaths from cancer in the United States expected this year, a toll that is second only to heart disease, according to the study.
But a series of obstacles to change are well enshrined in a society that will see an estimated 1,638,910 new cancer cases diagnosed this year.
They include skepticism that cancer can be prevented and the habit of intervening too late in life to stop or prevent cancer that has already taken root.
Also, much of the research on cancer focuses on treatment instead of prevention, and tends to take a short-term view rather that a long-term approach.
“Humans are impatient, and that human trait itself is an obstacle to cancer prevention,” said the study.
“As in other countries, social stratification in the United States exacerbates lifestyle differences such as access to health care, especially prevention and early detection services.
That means any bid to overcome deep social imbalances must be supported by policy changes.