Smoking, lack of exercise, obesity: numerous cancer cases can be avoided
A few months ago, British scientists published a study that concluded that around four out of ten cancer cases could have been prevented if the sufferers had followed a healthier lifestyle. German researchers are now coming to similar conclusions: almost 40 percent of new cancer cases in Germany are due to lifestyle and environmental factors.
Around 40 percent of new cancer cases can be prevented
Although there are still numerous types of cancer whose triggers are not known, "we now know many factors that can trigger different types of cancer - but do not necessarily have to," wrote the Bavarian Cancer Society on its website. In order to reduce the personal risk of cancer, it generally makes sense to adhere to a healthy lifestyle. Scientists at the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) also see it this way. According to the experts, a good 40 percent of cancer cases could be prevented if certain risk factors were minimized.
Unhealthy lifestyle and environmental factors
Researchers at the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) calculated that around 165,000 of the roughly 440,000 cancers expected in 2018 are due to lifestyle and environmental factors.
Above all, this includes smoking, lack of exercise, obesity and infections.
A group of authors led by Hermann Brenner from the DKFZ reports in the “Deutsches Ärzteblatt” how these cancer risk factors specifically affect the number of cancers in Germany.
Selected risk factors for cancer
In their investigations, the DKFZ experts dealt with selected risk factors for cancer.
In one study, they dealt with smoking and alcohol, in another with obesity, low physical activity and unhealthy nutrition and in a third with infections and selected environmental factors.
According to the researchers' extrapolations, an estimated 165,000 (37.4 percent) of the 440,000 expected new cancer cases this year in 35- to 84-year-olds can be attributed to the risk factors examined.
In addition, it was noted that the total number of new environmental cancer cases could be higher, as other factors such as skin cancer risk from UV radiation were not taken into account.
Despite the calculations, it should not be overlooked that even the healthiest lifestyle does not offer 100 percent protection against cancer.
Smoking is the biggest avoidable risk factor
Here are the results of the DKFZ scientists:
According to the projection, smoking accounts for the majority of preventable cancer cases. In the current year, an estimated 85,072 illnesses can be attributed to tobacco consumption.
Smoking is said to account for 89 percent of all lung cancer cases in men and 83 percent of all lung cancer cases in women.
As early as the 1960s, health experts recognized that there is a causal link between tobacco use and various types of cancer.
"Today smoking is the largest avoidable cancer risk factor that is causally associated with twelve different types of cancer," says the "Deutsches Ärzteblatt".
Health experts are right to point out the importance of quitting smoking.
High alcohol consumption
Almost 9,600 (around two percent) of the new cancer cases expected in 2018 are attributed to high alcohol consumption.
According to scientific evidence, alcohol can promote at least seven different types of cancer.
"Although there are more alcohol-related cancers for women, the total number of alcohol-attributable cancer cases in men is more than five times higher than in women," said the researchers.
One reason for this difference is that the average amount consumed is higher in men than in women.
Obesity and lack of exercise
Lack of exercise and being overweight also increase the risk of cancer.
According to the DKFZ researchers, around 30,600 (around seven percent) of the new cases expected in 2018 will be due to obesity and around 27,100 (around six percent) due to low physical activity.
An active sporting life can prevent cancer.
According to the scientists, around 14,500 (about three percent) of the expected diseases are associated with low fiber intake.
Around 9,500 (around two percent) are associated with a low intake of fruit and vegetables, another around 9,500 with sausage consumption and around 1,700 (around 0.4 percent) with a high consumption of red meat as well as around 1,200 (around 0.3 percent) with a high salt consumption .
Earlier studies have shown that it is better to avoid certain meat products such as salted sausage and to eat a diet with a high percentage of whole grains to protect yourself from cancer.
Infections and selected environmental factors
"Our results show that of all new cancer cases expected in Germany in 2018, at least 5% can be attributed to infections and selected environmental factors," says the DKFZ experts.
Of these, more than 17,600 cancer cases are attributable to infections. The Helicobacter pylori bacterium, which can lead to stomach cancer, and human papillomavirus (HPV) bacteria are said to contribute to most of these diseases.
Many cancer cases could be prevented by HPV vaccination.
Over 5,400 cancer cases will result from environmental risk factors such as indoor radioactive gas radon, particulate matter, solarium use and passive smoking.
More consistent prevention
"The authors finally advocate more consistent prevention with regard to tobacco, alcohol consumption, overweight, unhealthy nutrition and low physical activity," says the "German Medical Journal".
"They also call for targeted preventive measures with regard to infections and environmental factors."
However, further research to identify and quantify environmental risks is needed.
Studies have shown that the number of new cancer diagnoses in Germany has almost doubled since 1970.
However, cancer mortality in Germany and the EU has decreased significantly in recent years.
This applies in particular to colorectal cancer in the Federal Republic, as an international team of researchers recently reported in the journal "Annals of Oncology".
According to researchers, lung cancer has the highest mortality in the EU, with 32 out of 100,000 men and 15 out of 100,000 women. Around one in five cancer-related deaths in the EU are attributable to lung cancer. (ad)