Lifestyle and environment matter most when it comes to cancer, study suggests; Kentucky leads the nation in cancer deaths

Lifestyle choices and environment may matter most when it comes to your likelihood of getting cancer, according to a new study in the journal Nature, Jen Christensen and Kevin Flower report for CNN.

“Environmental factors play important roles in cancer incidence, and they are modifiable through lifestyle changes and/or vaccination,” the authors write.

Basically, the study is a reminder that many of the things people have control over — smoking, sun exposure, poor diet, use of tanning beds, air-pollution exposure, radiation exposure, and decisions to be vaccinated for a virus that causes cervical cancer — can play a role in whether a person might get cancer or not.

Kentucky leads the U.S. in cancer deaths, and consistently leads the nation in lung cancer deaths, which kills Kentuckians at a rate 50 percent higher than the national average. It also is ranked in the top 10 nationally for deaths from breast, colorectal and cervical cancer.

“It’s really been driven by three major things: obesity, smoking and lack of screening,” Louisville gastroenterologist Dr. Whitney Jones, told Laura Ungar of The Courier-Journal in recent story about cancer and Kentucky. “Our state is completely inundated with risk factors.”

The good news is that Kentuckians have control over some of the external factors mentioned in the study. The World Health Organization says nearly half of cancers could be prevented if people changed their lifestyle or reduced their environmental exposure to cancer-causing agents.

The study builds on another released earlier this year in the journal Science that said many of the cancers people get are due to “bad luck,” which set off a controversy. The authors of  the study have said they were “merely talking about a variety in cancers in 31 different tissue types,” CNN reports.

The latest research, although still in its early stages, concluded that only 10 percent to 30 percent of cancers start because of the “bad luck” factor and that the greatest majority of cancer might be due to outside factors.

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