(CNN) – Nearly half of all cancer deaths can be attributed to preventable risk factors, according to a new global study.
The three main risk factors are smoking, excessive alcohol consumption or a high body mass index.
A potentially life-changing study could change the way people prevent and treat cancer.
According to the medical journal The Lancetaround 44% of all cancer deaths in 2019 could be due to preventable risk factors.
The results surprised, even shocked, those who treat cancer patients daily.
“Knowing that nearly half of cancer deaths worldwide could be prevented is simply astounding,” said Dr. William Dahut, chief scientific officer of the American Cancer Society.
Using data from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation’s Global Burden of Disease Project, the study looked at 23 types of cancer and 34 risk factors. They found that three major risk factors stood out.
The first, perhaps unsurprisingly, was smoking.
The second, drinking too much alcohol.
“Obviously many people in this country drink alcohol in moderate and reasonable amounts,” Dahut said. “But heavy drinking can actually lead to a significant number of cancers, liver cancers and other types of tumors.”
The third risk was a high body mass index.
Dahut said the good news here is that all of that can be changed by making difficult but necessary lifestyle changes.
“Reach out to others or health care providers or support groups to get the help you need because these are not easy things to change,” he said. .
He stressed that the importance of these findings simply cannot be overstated.
“You know, imagine if we had a drug that came in like that,” Dahut said. “That you can take this drug with some sort of minimal side effects, relatively low cost, and could prevent cancer. You know, we’d be shouting from the rooftops.
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