ALMOST 40 per cent of cancer deaths in Australia are potentially avoidable.
New research estimates about 17,000 Australian lives could be saved each year – mostly through simple lifestyle changes like as giving up smoking, eating better, exercising more, reducing alcohol intake and covering up in the sun.
The study analysed Australian cancer deaths attributed to 20 modifiable risk factors. It used data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare and the Australian Bureau of Statistics to estimate how many cancer deaths in 2013 were caused by modifiable factors and were therefore preventable.
Lead researcher David Whiteman said they found modifiable risk factors were conservatively implicated in 41 per cent of cancer deaths among Australian men and 34 per cent in women. “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,” Professor Whiteman said.
Almost one quarter of all cancer deaths in Australia were caused by smoking, including passive smoking, accounting for about 10,000 of the country’s 44,000 cancer deaths in 2013. Professor Whiteman – from QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute – said smoking had been implicated in more than a dozen cancers. He said other major modifiable risk factors included infections , such as the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus , poor diet and being overweight or obese, which each made up about 5 per cent of Australian cancer deaths. Professor Whiteman said the study accounted for cancer deaths over and above the “background genetic risk” . “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.”
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