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While nearly half of cancers could be prevented each year, 28.8% of the French population still believes that "nothing can be done to avoid cancer."


04.04.2024 - Reducing one's cancer risk through daily actions and habits is within everyone's reach. According to the latest Cancer Barometer, 28.8% of the surveyed population think that "nothing can be done to avoid the disease." Yet, of the 433,000 cancers detected each year, nearly half are linked to avoidable risk factors: consumption of tobacco and alcohol, unbalanced diet, physical inactivity, etc. To raise awareness and mobilize our citizens towards preventive actions, the National Cancer Institute is rebroadcasting from April 1 to 28 its information campaign "Make the right choices now, you'll thank yourself later." The goal is to involve everyone in adopting daily and immediate health-promoting actions. This is because our citizens do not always perceive the significant impact of certain lifestyle habits on the onset of the disease.

Nearly half of cancers could be prevented by changing our behaviors

Our behaviors and lifestyle habits can have a considerable impact on our health, particularly regarding the risk of developing cancer. While nearly half of the new cases could be prevented each year by adopting simple actions, nearly a third of the French (28.8%) believe that "nothing can be done to avoid the disease."

Tobacco is by far the number one avoidable cancer risk factor. It is responsible for 8 out of 10 lung cancers, involved in 17 cancer locations, and causes 46,000 cancer deaths each year in France. The only way to protect oneself is not to smoke.

Next comes excessive alcohol consumption. As the second avoidable cancer risk factor, it accounts for 28,000 new cases and 16,000 cancer deaths each year. This consumption is responsible for cancers in 8 locations. Guidelines "alcohol, a maximum of two glasses per day and not every day," are recommended to guide the French towards lower-risk consumption for their health.

An unbalanced diet and overweight are also significant risk factors in developing the disease, each responsible for 19,000 new cancer cases yearly. Sedentarism, for its part, would lead to nearly 3,000 new cases a year. Furthermore, exposure to UV rays can also be mentioned. Skin cancers are increasing every year (over 100,000 per year), with the most aggressive cancers, melanomas, affecting more than 15,550 people annually. Protecting oneself from UV rays, especially during childhood when the skin is immature, can reduce the risk of melanoma.

Transmitting accurate information on protective actions remains essential. Beyond information, everyone must be supported, notably by health professionals, to identify and apply protective actions daily: not smoking, reducing alcohol consumption, eating a balanced and varied diet, having regular physical activity, and protecting from UV rays.

A misconception of risks by the French that hinders the adoption of protective actions

Some misconceptions about cancer risk factors persist over time and represent a barrier to implementing protective health actions.

For instance, while the majority of French people are aware that tobacco consumption poses a risk of developing the disease (80.3% of them think that "smoking tobacco can certainly promote the appearance of cancer"), more than half (54.8%) also believe that "doing sports can clean the lungs." Moreover, more than one in five smokers considers there is a risk only beyond 20 cigarettes per day. However, each cigarette smoked has a detrimental impact on health, and the duration of tobacco use is even more dangerous than the daily number of cigarettes smoked.

As for alcohol, misconceptions continue as well. Nearly a quarter of the French still think that "drinking a little wine decreases the risk of cancer, rather than not drinking at all." And the impact on cancer locations attributable to its consumption remains little known. Thus, in March 2024, the World Health Organization indicates that only 21% of women in 14 European countries are aware of the link between excessive alcohol consumption and the risk of developing breast cancer. It's important to note that more than 8,000 breast cancers are linked each year in France to regular alcohol consumption.

Informing the population about cancer risk factors and behaviors to adopt daily is therefore a major public health issue.

Raising awareness among everyone and encouraging action: the goal of the National Cancer Institute's information campaign

For the third consecutive year, the National Cancer Institute is broadcasting its information campaign on avoidable cancer risk factors. It highlights the importance of prevention and illustrates the choices available to us daily to reduce our risk of developing the disease. Choices that are better made as early as possible to preserve our health.


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