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Modifiable Risk Factors Associated With Many Cancer Types


November 22, 2017

According to a recent study from the American Cancer Society, risk factors including cigarette smoking, excess body weight, and alcohol intake, are the most prevalent modifiable risk factors for cancer diagnoses.

The average direct medical costs for cancer care is roughly $88 to $124 billion per year, and estimates show that more than 1.6 million new cancer diagnoses and 600,000 cancer deaths occurred in 2017. However, across the United States, the cancer mortality rate has decreased approximately 25% since 1991.

To determine the modifiable risk factors for cancer diagnoses among adults aged 30 years and older in 2014, the researchers estimated the proportion and number of invasive cancer cases and deaths that were attributable to a potential modifiable exposure for 26 cancer types. The researchers excluded non-melanoma skin cancers from their research.

The specific risk factors the researchers included in their study were cigarette smoking; secondhand smoke; excess body weight; alcohol intake; consumption of red and processed meat; low consumption of fruits and vegetables, dietary fiber and dietary calcium; physical inactivity; UV radiation and six cancer-associated infections.

Based on their findings, 659,640 of more than 1.5 million cancers diagnosed (42%) and 265,150 of 587,521 cancer deaths (45.1%) in 2014 were attributable to modifiable risks. The highest proportion of cancer cases and deaths were due to cigarette smoking. Further, cigarette smoking accounted for more than half (55.5%) of all potentially preventable cancers among men (184,400 of 332,320 cancers) and 35% among women (114,520 of 327,240 cancers). The most common cancer types included lung cancers (81.7%), larynx cancers (73.8%), esophageal cancers (50%) and bladder cancers (46.9%).

The second most common risk factor in relation to cancer cases was excess weight followed by alcohol intake, UV radiation, physical activity, and low fruit and vegetable intake. The researchers found that HPV infection also accounted for a lesser number of cases.

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Although modifying these behaviors may be difficult for patient populations, the outcome will result in lower medical costs.

“Reducing exposure to these risk factors will substantially reduce the cost of cancer associated with its morbidity (cost of cancer care) and premature mortality,” Farhad Islami, MD, PhD, strategic director of cancer surveillance research at the American Cancer Society, and lead author of the study, told First Report Managed Care. “However, further research will be needed to estimate the reduction in cost of cancer care due to the decline in exposure to the risk factors.”

According to the research, multicomponent interventions may be efficient strategies to reduce the burden of cancer across the country, and it can occur within different sectors of health care.

“It could begin at different levels. At the individual level, for example, studies have shown that adherence to a lifestyle consistent with the American Cancer Society’s cancer prevention guidelines for maintaining a healthy body weight, healthy diet, and physical activity and limiting alcohol intake can reduce cancer risk,” Dr Islami explained.

Dr Islami also suggested ways that managed care professionals could decrease these modifiable risk factors among their patient population to reduce cancer prevalence.

“It is also important to increase awareness through education campaigns, increase equitable access to preventive care, and effectively implement preventive measures (consultation, screening, and treatment) in the health care system. For example, healthcare providers can provide guidance for quitting smoking or maintaining healthy body weight.”

“Moreover, there are a number of effective policies to reduce exposure to modifiable risk factors, notably cigarette smoking. Implementation or enforcement of these policies at local, state, and federal levels is an essential part of any comprehensive approach. Overall, multicomponent strategies at the individual, community, and policy levels can be far more efficient in reducing exposure to modifiable risk factors than isolated interventions.”

Julie Gould


For more articles like this, visit the Oncology Resource Center

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