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Cancer preventability estimates

AICR's research report includes estimates of how much cancer could be prevented through diet, activity and weight management. For the most common US cancers, nearly one third of cases are preventable through a healthy diet, being physically active and maintaining a healthy weight.

Estimated Cases of US Cancers Preventable per Year
by Diet, Activity, and Weight Management

Cancer Type New Cases Percentage Prevented *Number of Cases Prevented
Breast, female 252,710 33% 83,394
Colorectal 135,430 47% 63,652
Endometrial 61,380 59% 36,214
Esophageal 16,940 33% 5,590
Gallbladder 11,740 22% 2,583
Kidney 63,990 24% 15,358
Liver 40,710 30% 12,213
Lung 222,500 36% 80,100
Mouth, Pharyngeal & Laryngeal 43,570 63% 27,449
Ovarian 22,440 5% 1,122
Pancreatic 53,670 19% 10,197
Prostate (advanced) 20,976 11% 2,307
Stomach 28,000 15% 4,200

*Estimated and rounded, based on: AICR/WRCF, Policy and Action for Cancer Prevention 2009; Continuous Update Project reports; American Cancer Society, Cancer Facts & Figures 2017.

Estimated Cases of US Cancers Preventable per Year by Staying Lean

Cancer Type % link to excess
body fat: MEN
% link to excess
body fat: WOMEN
Cases Prevented Annually
Breast (postmenopausal) 13%  32,852
Colorectal 17% 15% 21,743
Endometrial 50% 30,690
Esophageal (adenocarcinoma) 25% 12% 3,800
Gallbladder 11% 28% 2,383
Kidney 20% 28% 14,668
Liver 27% 28% 11,107
Ovarian 5% 1,122
Pancreatic 17% 20% 9,895
Prostate (advanced) 11% 2,600
Stomach (cardia) 9% 7% 2,315
TOTAL 21% 21%  

Preventability estimates are calculated using information on:
  • Cancer risk associated with lifestyle factor
  • Prevalence of low, moderate and high levels/consumption of lifestyle factor
  • Incidence of different cancers

You can read the full methodology used to calculate the estimates in Appendix A of the Policy Report.

Briefly: Estimates were made for lifestyle factors judged to be convincing or probable modifiers of cancer risk in Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity and the Prevention of Cancer: a Global Perspective and its continuous updates.


Evidence for the policy report came partly from two systematic literature reviews that investigated two specific questions: What factors shape the patterns of behavior that affect cancer risk (namely diet, physical activity and body fatness)? And, around the world, what effects have specific interventions had on those patterns of behavior?

The preventability figures are estimates; they are not precise values. They are likely underestimates, as only those cancers judged to have convincing or probable links to lifestyle factors are included.

For the 2009 Policy Report, these estimates were based on GLOBOCAN 2002 data. Those original estimates have been updated with the most recent global incidence data from GLOBOCAN* on cancer rates.

* Ferlay J, Shin HR, Bray F, Forman D, Mathers C and Parkin DM. GLOBOCAN 2008, Cancer Incidence and Mortality Worldwide: IARC CancerBase No. 10 [Internet]. Lyon, France: International Agency for Research on Cancer; 2010. Available from:

Sir Michael Marmot on the Policy Report

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