Majority of cancer deaths are preventable

From Reuters

More than 60% of all cancer deaths could be prevented if Americans stopped smoking, exercised more, ate healthier food and got recommended cancer screenings, the American Cancer Society reported Thursday.

This year, 1.368 million Americans will learn they have cancer and 563,700 will die from it.

“The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2005, more than 168,140 cancer deaths will be caused by tobacco use alone,” the organization said in a statement. “In addition, scientists estimate that approximately one-third (190,090) of the ... cancer deaths expected to occur in 2005 will be related to poor nutrition, physical inactivity, overweight, obesity and other lifestyle factors.”

“The issue is how many could you actually pull off in reality and half doesn’t seem like a big stretch,” said Dr. Michael Thun, head of epidemiology for the nonprofit group.


“If one could eliminate tobacco use, you would eliminate about half of cancer deaths. If you could help people maintain a healthy body weight and get more physical activity, that would be another 10%,” he added.

“Increasing colorectal screening and high-quality mammography and Pap (smears for cervical cancer) would contribute another fraction. It is very plausible that one could get a 50%.”

For instance, breast cancer, which kills 40,000 people in the United States every year, is easily treated if caught before it spreads. In February, a team at Harvard Medical School calculated that if every woman between 50 and 79 got a mammogram every year, it would reduce deaths from breast cancer by 37%. Colon cancer and prostate cancer, two other top cancer killers, are also easily caught early with proper screening.

Thun also said schools needed to examine ways to get sugary sodas out of vending machines and find other sources of revenue that do not threaten the health of youngsters.


But the single easiest way to prevent cancer would be to stop all tobacco use, the report says.