November 20, 1996 in Nation/World

Bad Habits Cause 65% Of Deaths From Cancer

Associated Press

Bad habits and an unhealthy lifestyle cause 65 percent of cancer deaths, a new study says.

The Harvard University School of Public Health study found that smoking, poor diet and lack of exercise cause a majority of deaths from cancer, while only 2 percent of cancer deaths were traced to environmental pollution and 10 percent to genetics.

The study was published in the November issue of the journal Cancer Causes & Control.

“These messages have been sounded time and again but not adhered to … and prevention has much more potential than treatment,” said Dimitrios Trichopoulos, director of the school’s Center for Cancer Prevention and one of the report’s five editors.

“The public concern about environmental carcinogens is out of proportion with the true risk,” the report added.

The study attributed 30 percent of cancer deaths to smoking, 30 percent to poor diet and obesity and 5 percent to lack of exercise.

Workplace carcinogens, family history and viruses each were blamed for 5 percent of cancer deaths. Alcohol, socio-economic status and reproductive factors each were blamed for 3 percent.

The report recommended a variety of diet changes, including:

More fruits and vegetables to reduce the risk of cancer of the lungs, esophagus and larynx.

More beans and grains, which may reduce cancer of the stomach and pancreas.

Less red meat, which is linked to colo-rectal cancers.

Less animal fat, which is linked to prostate cancer.

The study also advised getting daily exercise to reduce the risk of colorectal, breast and prostate cancer and avoiding the sun’s rays, blamed for 90 percent of skin cancers.

The report is “the neatest, clearest recent overview” of the causes of cancer, said Dr. Jack Evjy, a Boston University Medical School professor and president-elect of the American Cancer Society’s Massachusetts chapter.

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