Figure 10: Act Now to Reduce Your Cancer Risk. Decades of research have led to the identification
of numerous factors that affect a person’s risk of developing cancer (see Figure 9, p. 19). The factors
with the biggest influence on cancer risk can be eliminated or reduced by modifying personal behaviors.
For example, eliminating tobacco use; eating a healthy and balanced diet; increasing physical activity;
reducing exposure to the sun and alcohol consumption; managing pre-existing medical conditions with
the appropriate medications; and getting vaccinated against certain infectious agents are all actions one
could take to reduce their risk of developing cancer. Despite this, many individuals find it hard to modify
their behavior, and a great deal more research and resources are needed to understand how to best help
individuals to change their lifestyle.
Tobacco smoke is a well-established carcinogen,
with smokers more than
20-times more likely
to develop lung cancer
than nonsmokers ( 18).
Research will help us
better understand why
some individuals develop
cancer with relatively little
exposure to smoke, while
others are more resistant to
other measures to combat cigarette smoking in the United States (see Table 4, p. 21). As a result of
these efforts, the prevalence of smoking decreased from 42 percent of Americans in 1965 to 18 percent
in 2012 ( 16). This decrease has been credited with saving millions of lives that would otherwise have
been lost not only to lung cancer, but also to 17 other types of cancer directly related to tobacco use ( 9)
(see Figure 11, p. 22).
Even armed with this information, 70 million Americans, including some who have been diagnosed with
and/or are actively being treated for cancer, regularly use tobacco products. Further, every day in 2010,
6,500 Americans aged 12 years and older smoked their first cigarette and approximately 40 percent of
this group, or 2,600 individuals per day, became regular smokers ( 17). This is why tobacco use will be
responsible for an estimated 30 percent of all cancer deaths that occur in the United States in 2013 ( 1).