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Cancer can be caused by a variety of different factors and may develop over a number of years. Some risk factors can be controlled. Choosing the right health behaviors and preventing exposure to certain environmental risk factors can help prevent the development of cancer. For this reason, it is important to follow national trends data to monitor the reduction of these risk factors. This section focuses on national trends data from three major groups of risk factors: Behavioral, Environmental, and Policy/regulatory.
Scientists estimate that as many as 50–75 percent of cancer deaths in the United States are caused by human behaviors such as smoking, poor diet quality, and physical inactivity. This section describes trends in the following behaviors that can influence the likelihood of getting cancer.
Age at Smoking Initiation
Clinicians' Advice to
Medicaid Coverage of Tobacco
Smoking causes about 30 percent of all U.S. deaths from cancer. Avoiding tobacco use is the single most important step Americans can take to reduce the cancer burden in this country.
Diet, Physical Activity, and Weight
Fruit and Vegetable Consumption
Red Meat Consumption
Considerable evidence indicates that behavioral factors related to energy balance—such as diet and physical activity—as well as body weight that indicates the state of energy balance are known risk factors for many chronic diseases and conditions, including several forms of cancer. These combined factors may be the most significant, avoidable causes of cancer in the non-smoking population. Poor diet, physical inactivity, and overweight/obesity may account for about 25–30 percent of several of the major cancers in the United States. Obesity is estimated to cause 14 percent of cancer deaths in men and 20 percent of cancer deaths in women.
The number of new cases of melanoma has increased between 1975 and 2006, with an estimated number of 68,720 new cases in 2009.
Certain chemicals, biological agents, toxins, industry factors, etc., are associated with the development of cancer. In this section, national trends data associated with environmental exposures and their relationship to cancer are reported. The environmental measures highlighted in this report were chosen based on the availability of national trends data and their inclusion in the Healthy People 2010 Report.
Secondhand smoke (also known as environmental tobacco smoke) continues to be a leading environmental hazard. An expanded chapter on Secondhand smoke is presented in this year’s report update.
Pesticides and dioxins were reported in the Cancer Trends Progress Report – 2007 Update. Both exposures again appear in this update, with a special focus on dioxins for which new data have been presented.
Tobacco advertising and promotion increases Americans’ tobacco use.