At present, this disease is the second leading cause of death in Brazil
One third of deaths caused by 20 cancers in Brazil can be avoided by lifestyle changes. Smoking, alcohol consumption, being overweight, unhealthy eating patterns and lack of physical activity are risk factors associated with 114 thousand cases of disease (27% of the total) and 63 thousand deaths (34% of the total) per year in Brazil.
Data, published in a journal Cancer Epidemiology, is part of a study carried out by researchers from the Department of Preventive Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of São Paulo (FMUSP) and Harvard University, in the United States, with support from the Foundation for Research Support of the State of São Paulo (FAPESP).
Surveys show, for example, that the incidence of lung, larynx, oropharynx, esophagus, colon and rectum cancer can be reduced by half if these five risk factors are eliminated. Leandro Rezende, a researcher at FMUSP and one of the authors of this study, shows that there is no known way to prevent so many cases.
"What surprised us was the magnitude of cases and deaths that we could avoid by reducing these risk factors. This number must pay attention to public policies to reduce the risk of cancer in Brazil," he told Agência Brasil.
Estimates of the World Health Organization (WHO) show that by 2025, cancer cases will grow to 50% in Brazil as a result of population growth and aging. At present, this disease is the number two cause of death in the country.
However, the FMUSP survey shows that, in addition to changes in population structure, an increase in the prevalence of these five risk factors in the Brazilian lifestyle can represent a new challenge for cancer control in the population.
Researchers have estimated disease reduction if these factors are reduced.
"We work with a number of objectives or recommendations that are more reasonable to achieve at the population level and which are in several documents and recommendations by international institutions," Rezende explained.
The following scenarios are considered: alcohol consumption with a 10% relative reduction, a reduction of 1 kg / m2 in body mass index in the average population, a calcium diet from 200 mg to 399 mg per day and a 30% reduction in the prevalence of tobacco consumption.
These changes, from a population perspective, can prevent 19,731 cancer cases (4.5% of cases) and 11,480 deaths (6.1%).
Rezende pointed out that this estimate contributed to the formulation of public policy in the field of public health. He cited as an example the struggle against smoking in Brazil which managed to reduce less than half the proportion of smokers in connection with the 1990s.
"Today, about 10% of the Brazilian population smokes [antes, eram mais de 30%]. When Brazil adopted a package of tobacco measures, laws and regulations in Brazil, such as cigarette taxes, prohibitions on closed consumption, we have a very positive impact on the health of the population, "he said.
Researchers show that smoking accounts for 67,000 cases of cancer per year in Brazil, equivalent to 15.5% of cases and 40,000 deaths.
"There is a current debate that taxes on tobacco products must be reduced to reduce consumption of smuggled cigarettes. It is important to bring the amount of damage cigarettes do to the health of the population when consumption is stimulated. Today, Brazil is a case success and we, first, need to take care of this, "he said.
A working group was established in March this year by the Ministry of Justice and Public Security to evaluate the "comfort and opportunity" of reducing taxes on cigarettes produced in Brazil.
For Rezende, the fight against smoking can be an example for the elaboration of other policies in the food sector.
"Labeling, restrictions on marketing, and raising taxes on food industry products to prevent consumption are possible proposals to borrow cases of successful tobacco to try to reduce overweight and obesity from the population in Brazil," he advised. .
He recalled that the Food Guide for Brazilians, from the Ministry of Health, recommends that a large portion of natural products be consumed and that processed foods, especially ultraprocessed foods, should be avoided.
This research comes from a consensus in the scientific literature that five risk factors – smoking, alcohol consumption, overweight, unhealthy eating patterns and lack of physical activity – are associated with 20 types of cancer.
What this new study does is calculate fraction-caused populations (FAP) from diseases associated with population data on high body mass index (BMI), smoking, alcohol consumption, physical activity and eating information.
According to the researchers, FAP is a metric that estimates the proportion of possible preventable diseases in the population if all five risk factors are removed, keeping other factors / causes stable.
Data on the distribution of lifestyle risk factors were calculated from the 2013 National Health Survey (NSP), to estimate alcohol consumption, body mass index (BMI), fruit and vegetable consumption, physical activity, smoking and passive smoking among nonsmokers in Brazil.
The National Household Budget Survey (POF), carried out between 2008 and 2009 by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) was used to obtain consumption of fiber, calcium, red meat and processed meats.