Smoking, alcohol use and high BMI, and other risk factors are responsible for almost half of the global cancer deaths, according to a new, first-of-its-kind study published in The Lancet.
The study which was conducted by GBD 2019 Cancer Risk Factors Collaborators analyzed the relationship between 23 types of cancer and 34 risk factors. The researchers used data from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation’s Global Burden of Disease project and analyzed cancer deaths and disability from 2010 to 2019 across 204 countries.
- The study found that the analyzed 34 behavioral, metabolic, environmental, and occupational risk factors accounted for 4.45 million cancer deaths globally in 2019 (44.4% of all cancer deaths) for both sexes combined.
- The leading risk factors globally for cancer deaths and ill health for both sexes were smoking, followed by alcohol use, and high Body Mass Index (BMI).
- Half of all male cancer deaths in 2019 (50.6%, 2.88 million) were due to these estimated risk factors, compared with over one-third of all female cancer deaths (36.3%, 1.58 million).
- Furthermore, the analyzed risk factors accounted for 105 million cancer disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) globally for both sexes in 2019, 42.0% of all DALYs in that year.
- Behavioral risk factors (such as tobacco use, alcohol use, unsafe sex, and dietary risks) were responsible for the majority of the cancer burden globally, accounting for 3.7 million deaths and 87.8 million DALYs in 2019.
Cancer deaths due to risk factors on the rise
- The leading cancers attributable to the risk factors were tracheal, bronchus, and lung cancer for both men and women.
- Between 2010 and 2019, cancer deaths due to risk factors rose by 20.4% globally, increasing from 3.7 million to 4.45 million.
- Ill health due to cancer increased by 16.8% over the same period, rising from 89.9 million to 105 million DALYs.
- Metabolic risks accounted for the greatest percentage increase in cancer deaths and ill health.
This study illustrates that the burden of cancer remains an important public health challenge that is growing in magnitude around the world,” said Dr. Christopher Murray, the director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington’s school of medicine and a co-senior author of the study, as per The Guardian.Dr. Christopher Murray, director, Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), University of Washington school of medicine
In terms of the differences in cancer burden between men and women the study found the following:
- Regarding behavioral risk factors, cancer disability (DALYs) attributable to
- smoking was four times higher for males compared females, and
- alcohol was three times higher for males compared to females.
- For environmental and occupational risks cancer attributable disability (DALYs) were three times higher among males than females.
With regards to the differences in cancer burden due socio-economic factors the study found the following:
- Cancer-related ill health attributed to environmental and occupational, behavioral, and metabolic risk factors increased with age and peaked at 70 years. Countries at the higher end of the Socio-demographic Index (SDI) peaked at later ages.
- High SDI countries accounted for cancer deaths disproportionately. The five regions with the greatest cancer death rates due to risk factors were:
- Central Europe (82.0 deaths per 100,000 population),
- East Asia (69.8 per 100,000),
- high-income North America (66.0 per 100,000),
- Southern Latin America (64.2 per 100,000), and
- Western Europe (63.8 per 100,000).
The primary prevention of cancer through eradication or mitigation of modifiable risk factors is our best hope of reducing the future burden of cancer,” wrote Dr. Diana Sarfati and Jason Gurney of Te Aho o Te Kahu Cancer Control Agency in New Zealand, in an editorial as per CNN.
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.”Dr. Diana Sarfati and Jason Gurney, Te Aho o Te Kahu Cancer Control Agency, New Zealand
Our findings can help policymakers and researchers identify key risk factors that could be targeted in efforts to reduce deaths and ill health from cancer regionally, nationally, and globally,” said Dr. Murray, as per The Guardian.Christopher Murray, director, Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), University of Washington’s school of medicine