Time to take cancer off the "we pay for fat people's diseases of choice" list.
More than 50% of cancer could be prevented if people simply implemented what is already known about cancer prevention, according to a researcher here at the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) World Cancer Congress 2012.Hooray!
Graham Colditz, PD, DrPH, from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri, reported that a number of interventions, largely involving lifestyle behaviors, but also involving higher-cost interventions in high-income countries, could prevent a large proportion of cancers in 15 to 20 years if widely applied.
Among the "biggest buys" from lifestyle intervention is smoking cessation.
"One third of cancer in high-income countries is caused by smoking," Dr. Colditz said. If smoking rates could be reduced to the current levels in Utah [about 11%], the United States could see a 75% reduction in smoking-related cancers in 10 to 20 years — a target that Dr. Colditz feels is feasible in countries where smoking rates have already declined considerably.
Similarly, it is estimated that being overweight or obese causes approximately 20% of cancer today. If people could maintain a healthy body mass index (BMI), the incidence of cancer could be reduced by approximately 50% in 2 to 20 years. (A healthy BMI for cancer prevention is from 21 to 23 kg/m², as other speakers pointed out.)
Dr. Colditz, among others, estimates that poor diet and lack of exercise are each associated with about 5% of all cancers. Improvement in diet could reduce cancer incidence by 50% and increases in physical activity could reduce cancer incidence by as much as 85% in 5 to 20 years.