Cancer is the second leading cause of death, behind heart disease. Both have age as risk factors but also behavioral components. For cancer, smoking has been the second greatest risk factor overall (and number one for lung cancer) but heart disease is also greatly impacted by fitness. And many cancers can be directly linked to metabolic problems. The current levels of obesity among young people mean that cancer deaths could be at a plateau and set to rise again in 20 years.
The American Cancer Society report is about deaths, not cancer instances. Deaths will be impacted by earlier detection and treatment, whereas overall cancer instances will be impacted by people living longer. There will be 1.7 million cancer cases this year, and about 600,000 deaths, the authors estimate.
But that is a 27 percent improvement over what could have been if the trend through 1991 had continued, meaning we've had 2,629,200 fewer cancer deaths than would have been expected. Those rates could continue to decline, since smoking has plummeted to where only 6% of young people use cigarettes versus 30% 40 years ago. Unless people refuse to engage in any impulse control. Like smoking, obesity has a delayed but real impact on cancer.
Liver cancer should soon decline, for example, because hepatitis C among a generation of Baby Boomers seems to be under control, but it won't decline if obesity fills that gap, or overtakes hepatitis C.
And while America has it good, the rest of the world still shows cancer death disparity in line with their economic ability. Colon cancer death rates are 30 percent higher in poor countries, while cervical cancer deaths are 100 percent higher.
But more access to health care won't mitigate cancer deaths the way prevention will. Sensible diets, even though in modern times agriculture has led to cheap, delicious food, not smoking, and not engaging in risky lifestyles remain the way to enter old age as healthy as possible.