If you were anywhere near a television or computer last week, chances are that you heard about the recent study published by Professor David Whiteman and colleagues at the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, revealing nearly 40 per cent of cancer deaths in Australia were potentially preventable1.

By exploring eight categories of modifiable risk factors; tobacco smoke, dietary factors, overweight/obesity, alcohol, physical inactivity, UV exposure, infections and hormonal factors; the researchers concluded that the factors accounted for 41 and 34 per cent of cancer deaths in men and women respectively1. Furthermore, they estimated that as a figure, these risk factors are responsible for approximately 16,700 cancer deaths annually.

Amongst the greatest contributors were tobacco smoke, accountable for the greatest proportion of cancer deaths (23 per cent), followed by poor diet, overweight/obese and infections at approximately five per cent respectively1.

Identifying that tobacco smoke was responsible for 9,921 cancer deaths in 2013 alone, this research clearly emphasises the need for individual and societal lifestyle interventions that aim to reduce the prevalence of modifiable lifestyle risk factors in the community.

Shivaun Conn, ASLM Vice-President explains that the research “builds the case for lifestyle medicine as the answer to saving thousands of lives per annum. By working together, medical and allied health practitioners are able to provide the comprehensive care needed to prevent these lifestyle related cancers. A GP coordinates a patient’s care whilst nurses and allied health practitioners can provide additional support in changing health behaviours – such as improving dietary intake, increasing physical activity, smoking cessation, reducing alcohol, limiting sun exposure and managing other risky behaviours.”

“The timing [of this news] could not have been better” stated Dr Glen Davies, New Zealand ASLM board member, who suggests the public consider following New Year’s Resolutions in line with these recently published findings of:

  • Stopping smoking
  • Increasing intake of fruit and vegetables
  • Reducing intake of red and processed meats
  • Reducing alcohol consumption to meet the national guidelines
  • Controlling weight and increasing exercise
  • Taking care in the sun
  • Managing risk taking behaviour and,
  • Discussing medications with their Doctor
  1. Nearly 40 per cent of cancer deaths are potentially preventable. (2017, December 12). Retrieved from http://www.qimrberghofer.edu.au/2017/12/nearly-40-per-cent-cancer-deaths-potentially-preventable/