Can lifestyle decisions reduce your risk of developing cancer?
According to available statistics, roughly fourteen million people worldwide were newly diagnosed with cancer in 2012 alone. That same year saw about eight million cancer deaths. How many of those deaths might have been prevented using available medical knowledge about cancer risks? And how many more cancer deaths can we expect over the next three decades as the world population grows steadily older?
About forty-eight percent of all deaths in the United States are due to either cancer or heart disease, both of which can be linked to deliberate lifestyle choices that can boost the likelihood of developing these diseases. In 2010 alone, cancer claimed 576,691 lives, and heart disease claimed 596,577. Along with well-known risk factors such as tobacco use and unprotected sun exposure, there are other health risks that tend not to get the same amount of publicity. These include physical inactivity, poor diet, risk sexual behaviour, and excess energy intake.
Tobacco use remains the number one risk factor for lung and oral cancer. Considering that the tobacco industry has largely replaced profits lost in industrialized countries by marketing their product in low- and middle-income countries, it's hardly surprising that those same countries have reported a sharp rise in cancer cases. Along with tobacco use, people living in those countries are also falling prey to many of the high-risk behaviours seen in wealthier countries. Combined with the poor nutrition, lack of health education, and reduced access to health care, the majority of new cancer cases likely to affect low-income countries are also most likely to lead to early death.
To read more, check out my new Psychology Today blog post.