Strategies For Minimizing Cancer Risk; September 1996; Scientific American Magazine; by Willett, Colditz, Mueller; 6 Page(s)
During 1996, more than 550,000 people will die of cancer in the U.S. In Europe, there will be at least 840,000 cancer fatalities. Yet accumulating evidence indicates that in these two parts of the world, which have relatively high and closely tracked cancer mortality rates, more than half these deaths could theoretically have been prevented.
The notion that we can modify cancer risk emerges from decades of investigation. One laboratory experiment after another has demonstrated that a variety of chemicals and other environmental agents can cause cancer in animals, and studies of people have linked heavy exposure to certain substances in the workplace with high risks of specific types of cancer. Also, international studies of migrants repeatedly confirm that they tend to adopt the cancer pattern of their new country within a period that varies from about a decade (for cancer of the colon and rectum) to a few generations (for breast cancer)--a sign that something in the environment, such as changes in diet or exercise patterns, is implicated. If outside factors can increase cancer risk, avoiding those factors should decrease it.