Let me get something clear right off the bat. There are clearly people who do everything right and still develop cancer. A large chunk of this may be due to environmental factors that we had little control over. But the bulk of the cancers we see in developed countries are directly attributable to lifestyle. But just how much?
This particular review looked at 18 cancer types and 14 lifestyle factors. These factors included:
- tobacco use
- alcohol consumption
- consumption of meat
- fruit and vegetable intake
- dietary fiber intake
- salt intake (which is usually a marker for processed food intake)
- sedentary lifestyle
- occupation (some occupations are associated with increased cancer risk)
- infections (some infections, like AIDS, Hepatitis virus and HPV increase risk
- ionizing radiation (from X-rays and CT scans)
- solar radiation (increased risk of skin cancers)
- use of hormones (increases risk)
- reproductive history (as well as breast feeding)
If you look at this list, it’s really pretty general. There is nothing on this list that is going to require massive changes to a person’s lifestyle, with the exception of childbirth and quitting smoking. This list does not even look at a high phytonutrient / low calorie diet, type / intensity of exercise, environmental exposures, Vit D levels and a host of other things we know protect against cancer.
So, give that the list is pretty basic, just how much did these factors play a role in cancer development for these 18 cancers?
45.3% in men and 40.1% in women.
Keep in mind that these are general recommendations. With more targeted changes these numbers would go much, much higher.
My stance on cancer prevention, treatment and research has always been this… If people made the right lifestyle choices, it is clear that our cancer rates would plummet. Lowered cancer rates means millions (if not billions) of dollars that are not being used for screening, treatment and research for a “cure” of common, strongly preventable cancers. This money could then be diverted to education, research, treatment and resources for the more unusual and deadly cancers that, to date, we do not know enough about.
This is my perfect scenario. Until then, we throw billions of dollars to treatment and research for a “cure” for cancers we know are strongly preventable.