The leading risk factors globally for cancer deaths for both sexes were smoking, followed by alcohol use and high BMI.
The biggest cause of risk-attributable cancer deaths for both women and men globally was tracheal, bronchus and lung cancer. These account for 36.9% of all cancer deaths attributable to risk factors.
This was followed by cervical cancer (17.9%), colon and rectum cancer (15.8%) and breast cancer (11%) in women. In men, it was colon and rectum cancer (13.3%), oesophageal cancer (9.7%) and stomach cancer (6.6%).
The five regions with the highest cancer death rates owing to risk factors were central Europe (82 deaths per 100,000 population), east Asia (69.8 per 100,000), high-income North America (66 per 100,000), southern Latin America (64.2 per 100,000) and western Europe (63.8 per 100,000).
While not all cases or deaths are preventable, Cancer Research UK, the world’s largest independent cancer research organisation, says stopping smoking, cutting back on alcohol, maintaining a healthy weight, enjoying the sun safely and eating a balanced diet can all improve the odds in your favour.
Writing in a linked comment, Prof Diana Sarfati and Dr Jason Gurney of the University of Otago, New Zealand, who were not involved in the study, said preventing cancer by eradicating or reducing exposure to risk factors was “our best hope of reducing the future burden of cancer”.
“Reducing this burden will improve health and wellbeing, and alleviate the compounding effects on humans and the fiscal resourcing pressure within cancer services and the wider health sector,” they said.