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At Least One-Third of Cancers May be Preventable

Marking this year's World Cancer Day on February 4, the World Health Organization (WHO) reminded the public that nearly 2 out of 5 cancers can be prevented. Each year, over 12 million people are diagnosed with cancer, according to WHO. Moreover, cancer claims the lives of more people than AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis combined. The WHO has made a commitment to help prevent cancer, reminding people that quitting tobacco, limiting alcohol consumption, avoiding excessive sun exposure, maintaining a healthy weight are all effective ways to help protect against cancer.

For example:

  • Tobacco. Tobacco use is the single largest preventable cause of cancer in the world today, according to WHO. The organization reports that the use of tobacco causes 80 to 90 percent of lung cancer deaths in developing countries, including deaths from cancer of the oral cavity, larynx, esophagus and stomach.
  • Diet. The WHO reports that consuming too much red and preserved meat may be associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer. Being overweight is also associated with several cancers, including cancer of the esophagus, colorectum, breast, endometrium and kidney as well as heart and other diseases. However, making changes to a healthier diet, with high amounts of fruits and vegetables.
  • Sun: Non-melanoma skin cancers are the leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States. While a small amount of sun exposure can help build vitamin D, avoiding excessive exposure to the sun, using sunblock, and wearing protective clothing can help decrease the risk of skin cancer.

The WHO reports that two-thirds of cancer deaths occur in countries with limited access to health care or treatment and that cancers are likely to rise in developing countries. In Africa, for example, the WHO reports that there are 500,000 new cases of cancer each year, and over the next 30 to 40 years, that number is expected to increase by three to four times. Increasing public awareness and understanding of factors that can help prevent cancers, particular in developing cancers, could help decrease these numbers.

Additional Resources and References