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About Half of Cancers Could be Prevented if Risk Factors were Modified

Don’t Smoke! Cancers Caused by Tobacco can be Prevented

Deaths from Cancer have Dropped

According to the National Cancer Institute, in spite of the fact that deaths from cancer have dropped in the United States since the early 90s, projected rates for new cancer cases and deaths for 2018 are 1,735,350 new cases and 609,640 cancer deaths. The estimated national costs for cancer care in the United States in 2017 were $147.3 billion.

Smoking is Still Number One Cause of Cancer Deaths

The drop in cancer has been credited to the drop in cigarette smoking and the availability of more early screening detection and new advances in treatment. However, even though there has been a drop in smoking, it still is the number one cause of cancer deaths.

Study Showed that Risk Factors Could have been Modified for More than Half of all Cancer Cases

According to a study published November 21, 2017 in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, almost half of all cancers for 2014 were caused by risk factors that potentially could have been modified to prevent contracting the cancers. The researchers used statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Cancer Institute to arrive at their conclusions. The researchers discovered that 659,640 of more than 1.5 million diagnosed cancers (42%) and 265,150 of 587,521 cancer deaths (45.1%) in 2014 were caused by risk factors that could have been modified and these cancers might have been prevented.

Lifestyle is the Reason for Most Risk Factors

Most of these risks for cancer are lifestyle factors and the top three are cigarette smoking and second-hand smoke, obesity and alcohol consumption. Cigarette smoking accounted for the highest proportion of cancer cases (19%) and deaths (28.8%). In fact, cigarette smoking accounted for 55.5% of all potentially preventable cancers among men (184,400 of 332,320 cancers) and 35% among women (114,520 of 327,240 cancers). Smoking cigarettes accounted for 81.7% of lung cancers, 73.8% of larynx cancers, 50% of esophageal cancers and 46.9% of bladder cancers. For more about the dangers of smoking see our blog post from March 21, 2018.

The rest of the risk factors are also mainly lifestyle involving wrong dietary choices, a lack of physical exercise and over exposure to ultraviolet radiation. The six viral infections that have a high risk for cancer could also be prevented if people would get vaccinated for those of them that can be protected by vaccines.

Potentially Modifiable Risk Factors

Cigarette smoking and second-hand smoke


Alcohol consumption

Consumption of processed meat

Eating red meat

Not eating enough fresh fruits and vegetables

Not eating enough fiber from the diet

Not getting enough calcium from food

Not getting enough physical exercise

Too much exposure to ultra violet radiation

Infections by viruses linked to an associated risk for cancer:

  • Helicobacter pylori,
  • Hepatitis B virus (HBV),
  • Hepatitis C virus (HCV),
  • Human herpes virus type 8 (HHV8),
  • Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), or
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV).

Palliative Care at Ditmas Park Rehab and Care Center in Brooklyn, New York

If you or your loved one are afflicted with cancer and need palliative care along with short or long-term skilled nursing and rehabilitation, see our blog from June 7, 2018 on palliative care. Ditmas Park Rehab and Care Center in Brooklyn, New York offers excellent palliative care. The Ditmas Park palliative care team specializes in integrative therapies, pain management and also address the spiritual and religious needs of the patients under their care in order to make for the best possible quality of life.

Brooklyn Hospitals near Ditmas Park Rehab and Care Center

New York Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital

NYU Langone Hospital—Brooklyn (formerly named NYU Lutheran Medical Center)

SUNY Downstate Medical Center – University Hos

NYC Health + Hospitals/Kings County

Maimonides Medical Center


The results of the study show that even though the rate of deaths from cancer has dropped, mainly because people have quit smoking and because of better early detection screening and treatment, smoking is still the number one modifiable risk factor for cancer.


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