No treatment required.
In fact, it wouldn’t take any drugs at all. All we need to do is get people to follow the recommendations that doctors have been making for decades: don’t smoke, drink moderately, maintain a healthy weight, and exercise regularly.
At least, that’s the message from a new study that looked at the lifestyles of more than 100,000 doctors and nurses in the US.
This study made it clear right up front – lifestyle alone is never going to stop all cancers. Unfortunately, a lot of the time, the disease strikes totally at random, and it can happen to even the healthiest of people.
But the new study serves as a reminder that while we often focus all our money and effort on new treatments, there are already proven ways to reduce people’s risk of developing cancer.
“Even while we’re making new discoveries, that shouldn’t stop us from acting on the knowledge we already do have.”
So is the prevention issue really that cut and dry?
While the occasional study might find something random, the reality is that the vast majority of research is on the same page when it comes to risk factors for cancer – cigarettes, too much alcohol, obesity, and a lack of exercise are all bad.
(And that’s not to mention sun exposure, because this specific study only looked at carcinoma – which are most cancers except brain and skin cancers.)
To figure out just how much of a risk living an ‘unhealthy’ lifestyle really is, Mingyang Song and Edward Giovannucci from Massachusetts General Hospital looked at data on taken from a range of long-term studies on doctors and nurses in the US.
After looking at cancer rates, they found that up to 80 percent of lung cancer could be put down to lifestyle, as well as more than one-fifth of colon cancer, pancreatic cancer, and kidney cancer cases.
When they applied those rates to the rest of the US population, they found that between 41 and 63 percent of cancer cases could be preventable, as well as 59 to 67 percent of cancer deaths.
That’s a pretty huge if you consider the fact that despite countless promising new treatments, we’re still no closer to a ‘cure’ for cancer – the more we learn about the disease, the more complex we realise it is.
“These findings reinforce the predominant importance of lifestyle factors in determining cancer risk,” the researchers write in JAMA Oncology. “Therefore, primary prevention should remain a priority for cancer control.”