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Noteworth Numbers: Cancer Prevention

TOP - February 2013 VOL 6, NO 1 published on March 4, 2013 in Noteworthy Numbers

According to the World Health Organization, one-third of all cancer cases are preventable.1 When individuals choose the right health behaviors and avoid exposure to certain environmental risk factors, prevention becomes the most long-term cost-effective approach for curtailing cancer.2 The following statistics examine policy factors and behavioral prevention strategies.

Tobacco Use
Approximately 30% of all deaths from cancer in the United States are a result of smoking,2 and about 70% of lung cancer cases can be attributed to smoking alone.1

A study by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network revealed that enacting comprehensive smoke-free legislation in states without such laws could decrease deaths by more than 624,000 over the long term and save $1.32 billion in treatment costs over 5 years.3

Also, the United States could save $1.05 billion in treatment costs, generate close to $9 billion in new state government revenue over 5 years, and save 1.32 million deaths over the long term with the passage of a one-time $1 increase in cigarette excise taxes in all US states and the District of Columbia.3

Diet, Physical Activity, and Weight
One-third of the more than 500,000 cancer deaths in the US per year can be attributed to poor diet, physical inactivity, and obesity.3
To prevent cancer, individuals should achieve and maintain a healthy weight throughout life, adopt a physically active lifestyle, consume a healthy diet, and limit consumption of alcoholic beverages.3

In 2010, the Affordable Care Act created the Prevention and Public Health Fund, a source of annual funding for prevention and public health initiatives, which provided $103 million for community-based policy and environmental change initiatives dedicated to decreasing obesity, improving nutrition, and increasing physical activity through the Community Transformation Grant program.3

UV Radiation
It is estimated that approximately 76,250 cases of melanoma were diagnosed in 2012, with likely 9180 deaths.3
Behavioral strategies for the prevention of skin cancer include wearing ultraviolet (UV)-protective clothing, seeking shade when outdoors, applying sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher to exposed skin, and avoiding indoor tanning booths.3
In 2010, 60.4% of adults said that they usually or always protected themselves from the sun by practicing at least 1 of 3 sun-protective behaviors:

  • 31.0% reported usually applying SPF 15 or higher sunscreen
  • 19.7% reported usually wearing sun-protective clothing
  • 37.2% usually sought shade2


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Last modified: July 22, 2021