Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Association of lifestyle and environmental factors with the risk of cancer


It has been well established that certain lifestyle habits relate to the risk of certain cancers (e.g., smoking and lung cancer). In a well-done analysis, the authors estimate the proportion of cancer in the population associated with a variety of lifestyle and environmental factors.

"Tobacco smoking is by far the most important risk factor for cancer in the UK, responsible for 60 000 cases (19.4% of all new cancer cases) in 2010. The relative importance of other exposures differs by sex. In men, deficient intake of fruits and vegetables (6.1%), occupational exposures (4.9%) and alcohol consumption (4.6%) are next in importance, while in women, it is overweight and obesity (because of the effect on breast cancer) – responsible for 6.9% of cancers, followed by infectious agents (3.7%)."

Forum reviewers considered this to be a well-done paper that used epidemiologic methods that are preferable to those used in some previous such analyses. Generally, they disagreed with the authors that no alcohol consumption was the theoretical "optimum exposure level," as the risk of certain cancers seems to increase primarily from heavy drinking. Further, they found reason to believe that the purported effects related to diet may have been over-estimated.

Nevertheless, this paper provides considerable new information on lifestyle and environmental factors that may relate to the risk of cancer. It puts into perspective the importance of targeting certain behaviours for the potential reduction in the risk of cancer.

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