How you Live can Affect your Health

On December 6, 2011, the British Journal of Cancer, published a  study entitled The Fraction of Cancer Attributed to Lifestyle and Environmental Factors in the UK in 2010.  The object of the study was to try to determine the percentage of cancers that were the result of  14 major lifestyle, dietary and environmental risk factors.  According to the study, there are tobacco, alcohol, four elements of diet (consumption of meat, fruit and vegetables, fibre and salt), overweight, lack of physical exercise, occupation, infections, radiation (ionising and solar), use of hormones and reproductive history (breast feeding).

In the year 2010, there were over 324,000 diagnosed cases of cancer in the UK. Of these,  more than 158,000  cases were in men and almost 156,000  cases were in women. There were 18 different kinds of cancer represented in the study. When the patients with cancer were examined for the 14 risk factors, it was determined that in 42.7% of the cases, one or more of the factors was present.

The risk factor with the highest responsibility was tobacco. More than 60,000 of the cancer sufferers or 19.4 % of new cases diagnosed had been exposed to smoke or smoking. With tobacco, the risk was higher in men but was also very high in women. With some of the other risk factors, there were major differences between the sexes. Men were more likely not to eat enough vegetables and fruit and have environmental exposures and women were more prone to overweight and obesity and infectious exposure such as HPV.

The author of the study, Professor Max Parkin, an epidemiologist at the Centre for Cancer Prevention, Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine, Queen Mary University of London has stated “Many people believe cancer is down to fate or ‘in the genes’ and that it is the luck of the draw whether they get it. Looking at all the evidence, it is clear that around 40 per cent of all cancers are caused by things we mostly have the power to change.”

 While the study has a very positive aspect to it, cancer is not quite as simple as a few life changes. Most cancers can be caused by a variety of factors and when analyzing the data in this study,  it is important to consider the effect on the person who drank alcohol, smoked and was overweight. The cancer may be the result of one, two or all of the risk factors. When exposure is one of the factors,  it may also be in combination with other risk factors. It certainly is a good idea to consider all the risk factors and remove as many of them from your life as possible. There is no guarantee however, that cancer will not develop in spite of this.