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Nine behavioral and environmental risk factors play a major role in global cancer deaths

Boston, MA - Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and a network of collaborators estimated mortality for 12 types of cancer linked to nine risk factors in seven World Bank regions for the year 2001. They found that of the seven million deaths worldwide that year from cancer, 35 percent were attributable to the nine well-known behavioral and environmental risk factors. The researchers also looked at how the risks, and the cancers they cause, were distributed over the regions of the world. This is the first assessment of the role of health risks in cancer deaths globally and regionally. The findings appear in the November 19, 2005 issue of the journal The Lancet.

The researchers analyzed data from the Comparative Risk Assessment project and World Health Organization databases to determine the level of risk factors in different world regions, and separately for men and women; they also considered how hazardous each risk factor may be. The analysis covered all high-income countries together, and separated low-income and middle-income countries into geographical regions: East Asia and Pacific, South Asia, Europe and Central Asia, Latin America and Caribbean, Middle East and North Africa, and Sub-Saharan Africa. The nine risk factors were overweight and obesity, low fruit and vegetable intake, physical inactivity, smoking, alcohol use, unsafe sex, urban air pollution, indoor smoke from household use of coal and contaminated injections in healthcare settings.

They found that more than one in every three of the seven million deaths from cancer worldwide was caused by these nine potentially modifiable risk factors (2.43 million), with alcohol and smoking playing large roles in all income levels and regions. Worldwide, the nine risk factors caused 1.6 million cancer deaths among men and 830,000 among women. Smoking alone is estimated to have caused 21 percent of deaths from cancer worldwide.

In high-income countries, these n
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Contact: Christina Roache
croache@hsph.harvard.edu
617-432-6052
Harvard School of Public Health
18-Nov-2005


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