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Dec 17, 2015 10:30 AM EST

90% of cancers can be avoided by choosing a healthy lifestyle, study says

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A new study has revealed that environmental factors, smoking, drinking, sun exposure and air pollution cause nine out of 10 cancers, Telegraph reports. 

The new study suggests that cancers may be more preventable than people thought and that people could cut down their risk of getting cancer by making lifestyle changes.

Earlier studies suggested that random cell mutations played a significant role in the development of cancer. A study published earlier this year suggested that 65 per cent of the cancers were caused by random mistakes in cell division that are completely outside of our control.

According to Dailymail, Dr Emma Smith, of Cancer Research UK, said: 'Healthy habits like not smoking, keeping a healthy weight, eating a healthy diet and cutting back on alcohol are not a guarantee against cancer, they do dramatically reduce the risk of developing the disease.'

The new study, by Stony Brook University in New York, suggests that cancer incidence is far too high to be explained only by cell mutations.

Yusuf Hannun of Stony Brook University New York, US, said,

"Here we provide evidence that intrinsic risk factors contribute only modestly to cancer development.

"The rates of mutation accumulation by intrinsic processes are not sufficient to account for the observed cancer risks."

The researchers surveyed previous studies that showed that immigrants who moved from areas of low cancer incidence to countries with high cancer incidence developed the same tumour rates.

The researchers concluded that the most prevalent diseases are caused by environmental factors. The researchers said that 'extrinsic' factors should be taken into account in cancer prevention and research.

Prof Kevin McConway, Professor of Applied Statistics, The Open University, said,

"For many common types of cancer, this study concludes that at least 70 per cent to 90 per cent of the cancers are due to external risk factors - roughly speaking, that 70 per cent to 90 per cent would not occur if we could magic away all the risk factors," he said.

" Even if someone is exposed to important external risk factors, of course it isn't certain that they will develop a cancer - chance is always involved.

"But this study demonstrates again that we have to look well beyond pure chance and luck to understand and protect against cancers."

The research was published in the journal Nature.

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