Alberta study shows risk of cancer can be reduced by modifying lifestyle
The national study will estimate how cancer rates will be reduced by changing exposure to these risk factors up to the year 2045.
Published Thursday, February 4, 2016 11:41AM MST
Provincial health experts say about 45 percent of cancer cases in Alberta can be connected to lifestyle choices and that modifying those behaviors can greatly reduce the risk.
According to new statistics from Alberta Health Services, tobacco use remains the leading cause of cancer but a number of cases are related to not being active enough, unhealthy eating, excess body weight, and alcohol.
“Our new data shows that we could avoid about 6,700 new cancer cases every year if we work together on a short list of factors we can change,” said Dr. Verna Yiu, Interim AHS President and CEO.
“When it comes to cancer, people tend to think it’s all a matter of the genes we inherit, or that the list of things that cause cancer is so long and outside our control that it’s not worth bothering. These findings show that’s simply not true,” said Dr. Gerry Predy, Senior Medical Officer of Health for AHS. “Even some of the most common cancers – such as breast, lung and colorectal – could be reduced by at least half by targeting the environments and the risk factors we already know about and can change.”
The data comes from the Population Attributable Risk study and is the first time in Alberta that cancer statistics have been broken down to display the impact of the leading lifestyle and environmental risk factors.
“Alberta’s population is continuing to grow,” said Sarah Hoffman, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. “At the same time, our population is growing older. It’s a combination that is putting increasing pressure on our health system, so it is important to look at some of the factors that are within our control in helping protect our health. Prevention is one of the best tools we have when it comes to reducing the risk of cancer.”
“It’s important to recognize that no diet or lifestyle can promise absolute protection from cancer,” said Dr. Darren Brenner, an AHS epidemiologist. “We don’t yet know enough to eliminate cancer completely but there are many proven strategies to greatly reduce the risk.”
“There is also ample scientific evidence to show that supporting people who have already had cancer to quit smoking, be more physically active and limit alcohol can have a major impact,” said Dr. Predy. “Modifying the influences on these factors improves treatment outcomes and reduces the chance of getting a second cancer later on.”
Alberta Cancer Facts:
- Tobacco continues to be the leading cause of cancer in Alberta with 2,485 cases.
- We could prevent about 810 cases of cancer in Alberta each year – if we support each other to eat better.
- We could prevent about 673 cases of cancer in Alberta each year – if we support each other to get to, and stay at, a healthy weight.
- We could prevent up to about 617 cases of cancer in Alberta each year – if we support each other to drink less alcohol.
- Eighty-five per cent of lung cancer in Alberta is due to risk factors that we can reduce, limit, and/or avoid with the top risk factors being tobacco, physical inactivity, and radon.
- Fifty per cent of breast cancer in Alberta is due to risk factors that we can reduce, limit, and/or avoid with the top risk factors being physical inactivity, hormone replacement therapy, and being overweight.
The study will soon be expanded to include the rest of the country thanks to a grant from the Canadian Cancer Society Research Institute and will look at the relationship between these same risk factors and cancer for each province in Canada.
For more information and to view the study results, click HERE.