Forty Percent of Cancers Caused by Lifestyle

Alcohol is a preventable cause of cancerA recent UK research study shows that 40% of all cancers are caused by avoidable lifestyle considerations, such as diet, excess weight, smoking, and/or alcohol consumption. Tobacco use was shown to cause the most cancers.

“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,” study author Professor Max Parkin, a Cancer Research UK epidemiologist based at Queen Mary, University of London. The reality is, based on the study, that many cancers can be avoided through lifestyle changes.

The research showed that in Britain:

  • Smoking accounts for 23% of all cancers in males & 15.6% in females. Cancers resulting from smoking included: lung cancer, kidney cancer, bladder cancer, pancreatic cancer & cervical cancer.
  • One out of every twenty-five cancers is linked to work-related exposure to asbestos or chemicals.
  • One out of every 33 cancers is linked to infections (for example,  the human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes most cervical cancer cases).
  • 34% of cancers were linked to diet, smoking, alcohol consumption and excess weight.
  • In males, 6.1% of cancers were linked to a lack of vegetables and fruit, 4.9% to occupation, 4.6% to alcohol use, 4.1% to obesity and overweight, and 3.5% to excessive exposure to the sun and tanning beds.
  • In females, 6.9% of cancers were linked to obesity and overweight, 3.7% to infections such as human papillomavirus, 3.6% to excessive exposure to the sun and tanning beds, 3.4% to insufficient fruit and vegetable intake, and 3.3% to alcohol consumption.

Some risk factors, such as lung cancer from smoking, are well-known cancer risks. But others are not. For instance, nearly a 10th of the risk for breast cancer comes from excess weight. This risk factor is far more significant than drinking alcohol or never breast feeding. Jet lag is another little known contributor.

Drinking excessive alcohol is often believed to cause esophageal cancer. The report showed that in fact, 1/2 of the risk of this type of cancer comes from a poor diet — insufficient vegetable and fruit intake.

Too much dietary sodium represents 1/5th of the risk for stomach cancer.

Certain types of cancer, such as throat cancer and mouth cancer, are caused almost completely by lifestyle.

Study: The Fraction of Cancer Attributable to Lifestyle and Environmental Factors in the UK in 2010 by Dr D Max Parkin etc. al.  British Journal of Cancer Volume 105, Issue S2 (Si-S81) Published 6 December 2011

Dental X-Rays

Researchers have reported that after evaluating 313 patients, that repeated dental x-ray exposure increased the likelihood of experiencing thyroid cancer.  This report indicates that these x-rays should be part of clinical necessity, not routine checkup. The thyroid gland, which is in the neck, is very sensitive to the effects of radiation – especially in children.

Researchers: Dr. Anjum Memon and associates, Brighton & Sussex Medical School.

Jet Lag

Jet lag, that annoying phenomenon that occurs when you cross time zones and disrupt the body’s circadian rhythms might lead to more problems than just sleepless nights and exhausted days.  Research published in Cancer Research shows that jet lag can be linked to an increased risk of cancer.  Alterations in the body clock can disrupt molecular coordination and cause organs, including tumors, to go haywire.

Read more at Cancer Research and the Journal of Clinical Investigation.


Recent research study shows people with lung cancer who continued smoking had a 29 to 33 percent chance of surviving five years. But those who stopped smoking had a 63 to 70 percent chance of being alive after five years.  The research was published Friday in the BMJ,  formerly known as the British Medical Journal. Basically, smokers who stopped double their chances of surviving lung cancer.

Editor’s Note: People who smoke are at a significantly higher risk of getting eye diseases such as macular degeneration.