Ever heard the saying "prevention is the best medicine"? While there are only a few cancers that have a single known cause, researchers have identified a number of factors that may contribute to the risk of developing cancer and affect its prognosis.
Besides risk factors that are beyond our control, such as family history, there are modifiable risk factors that we do have control over. So take charge by making changes in any or all of these areas to lower the risk of developing and dying from cancer.
Some of the most frequently studied known or suspected risk factors are:
- overweight and obesity
- low fruit and vegetable intake
- physical inactivity
- alcohol use
- unsafe sex
- urban air pollution
- smoke from coal or wood stoves
Among these risk factors, smoking, alcohol, and overweight and obesity were found to be the most important lifestyle factors that contribute to the development of cancer, especially in high-income regions such as North America.
Cancer is the leading cause of death in Canada and is responsible for 30% of all deaths in the country. Due to the growing and aging population, the number of cancer deaths is expected to continue to increase. There are effective screening methods available for only a few cancers (and prognosis can be dependent on catching cancer early, before it spreads), so the effectiveness of treatment for many cancers may be limited. According to the Canadian Cancer Society, nearly 1 out of 4 Canadians is expected to die from cancer. This is why the best way to reduce these deaths is to prevent the cancers from developing in the first place by targeting modifiable risk factors. This is where you can be in control.
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