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Lifestyle more to blame for cancer than environment, study shows

According to a new WHO report, environmental pollution poses a relatively small cancer risk in France compared with smoking and alcohol.

The study “Attributable causes of cancer in France in the year 2000”, published on 13 September 2007, aimed to provide an assessment of the number of cancer cases attributable to specific risk factors such as smoking, obesity, oral contraceptives and environment pollutants. Cigarettes remain the main cancer risk factor, followed by alcohol consumption, while environmental pollution appears to pose a relatively small risk, the study found.

In developed countries, exposure to known carcinogens has significantly decreased since the 1950s, while cancer rates have increased. As a consequence, public concern about environmental pollutants is "disproportionate to the known magnitude of impact of such pollutants on cancer", the study declares. However, according to the report, 55% of cancer cases in men and 70% in women remain unidentifiable.

The authors of the report therefore recommend that further long-term studies should be conducted to better understand the factors that influence health. The EU’s Community Action Program for Public Health (2003-2008) addresses as a priority area lifestyle-related health determinants, including smoking and nutrition. (