Nearly half of cancer deaths linked to modifiable risk factors

New research by the American Cancer Society shows that more than 650,000 cancer cases and more than 250,000 deaths are linked to modifiable risk factors – meaning they could be preventable.

Based on 2014 data, researchers found that 42 percent of cancer cases (659,640 cases) and 45 percent of cancer deaths (265,150 deaths) in the U.S. are linked to risk factors such as cigarette smoking, excess body weight, drinking alcohol, physical inactivity and eating red and processed meat.

The lifestyle factors contributed to 26 different cancer types among adults 30 years and older.

The researchers analyzed each risk factor’s contribution to overall cancer cases and deaths. Cigarette smoking topped the list.

Here are the top risk factors:

1. Cigarette smoking: Accounts for 19 percent of cancer cases and nearly 29 percent of deaths.

2. Excess body weight: Responsible for about 8 percent of cancer cases and 7 percent of deaths.

3. Drinking alcohol: Linked to about 6 percent of cases and 4 percent of deaths.

4. UV radiation: Attributed to nearly 5 percent of cancer cases and 2 percent of deaths.

5. Physical inactivity: Linked to 3 percent of cases and 2 percent of deaths.

Marissa Harshman

Marissa Harshman

I'm the health reporter for The Columbian newspaper in Vancouver, Wash. I started at The Columbian -- my hometown newspaper -- in September 2009. Reach me at or 360-735-4546.

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