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Third of All Cancers Caused by Tobacco, Poor Diet, Alcohol and Obesity

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Lifestyle factors including tobacco-use, a poor diet, excessive alcohol consumption and obesity cause a third of all cancers, reported Medscape Today.

The study, "The Fraction of Cancer Attributable to Lifestyle and Environmental Factors in the UK in 2010," was published as a supplement to the December issue of the British Journal of Cancer.

"This is the most comprehensive review of cancer and lifestyle undertaken to date," said lead author Max Parkin, MD, professor of epidemiology at Queen Mary University, London, United Kingdom, in his speech at a press conference held by Cancer Research UK, which sponsored the review.

Indian Country Today Media Network asked Kathi Di Nicola, a representative for the American Cancer Society (ACS), about the findings and what people can do to minimize their risk of getting cancer.

ICTMN: One of the most surprising finds from the study relates to the impact of a poor diet and lack of exercise on developing cancer. How can a lack of fruit and vegetables and fiber potentially cause cancer? What types of cancers may be caused by a poor diet?

ACS: Obesity and physical inactivity may account for 25 to 30 percent of several major cancers, including colon, post-menopausal breast, endometrial, kidney, and cancer of the esophagus. Research has shown that poor diet and not being active are key factors that can increase a person’s cancer risk. The good news is that you can do something about this.

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In addition to quitting smoking, some of the most important things you can do to help reduce your cancer risk are:

  • Get to and stay at a healthy weight.
  • Be physically active on a regular basis.
  • Make healthy food choices.

The evidence for this is strong: Each year, about 570,000 Americans die of cancer; about one-third of these deaths are linked to poor diet, physical inactivity, and carrying too much weight. There is strong evidence that an individual’s risk of developing cancer can be substantially reduced by healthy behavior: not using tobacco, getting sufficient physical activity, eating healthy foods in moderation, and participating in cancer screening according to recommended guidelines.

ICTMN: What are the general health risks of regularly eating red and processed meat and high amounts of salt? How can these poor diet choices increase your chances of developing cancer?

ACS: Cutting back on processed meats (like hot dogs, bologna, bacon and deli meats) and red meats like beef, pork and lamb may help reduce the risk of colon and prostate cancers. These foods are also high in saturated fat, so eating fewer of them and eating them less often will also help lower the risk of heart disease.

ICTMN: Drinking alcohol excessively may also increase cancer rates. When it comes to alcohol, how much is too much?

ACS: In the article "Limit Alcohol to Lower Cancer Risk," ACS states: "Drinking alcohol is linked to a higher risk of mouth and throat cancers, liver cancer, colon cancer, and breast cancer. That’s why the American Cancer Society recommends limiting alcohol to no more than 1 drink per day for women and 2 for men."