In a new study from UNSW Sydney, researchers find most lung cancer can be prevented by healthy lifestyle behaviors, such as quitting smoking, boosting fruit intake and being physically active.
The Australian study analyzed data from 370,000 people.
It found that tobacco smoking continued to be responsible for most of the lung cancer burden in Australia.
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in Australia and worldwide.
The study showed that lung cancer risk remained elevated for 40 years after stopping smoking, with the risk of approximately halving every 10 years.
Of the 74,600 lung cancers attributable to current smoking in Australia in the next 10 years, 25,400 could be avoided if all current smokers were to quit.
The harms from smoking persist for decades, and the findings show the importance of plain packaging and other tobacco control activities.
While most current smokers do not describe themselves as ‘heavy’ smokers, those who smoke fewer than 20 cigarettes a day carry a large proportion of the future lung cancer burden.
The researchers also found that eating two serves (about 300 grams) of fruit each day may reduce the lung cancer burden by 8%.
Doing the recommended 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity each week may reduce the lung cancer burden by 16%.
Currently, about 16% of Australians smoke but roughly half of all Australians are not meeting the guidelines for fruit intake and 74% are not meeting guidelines for physical activity.
Overall, at least four in five lung cancers appear preventable through lifestyle changes.
The researchers also compared the lung cancer burden for different population subgroups.
They found that men, those less than 75 years of age, those who are unmarried, those with lower educational levels, those living in remote areas of Australia, and those not meeting the fruit consumption or physical activity recommendations, have the highest smoking-attributable lung cancer burden.
Such high-burden groups are likely to benefit most from efforts that help them to not take up smoking, to quit smoking, and to be considered for screening to facilitate early detection.
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