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How many cancers are due to our lifestyle? - A new Canadian Cancer Society study on avoidable risk factors will be conducted in Quebec and the rest of the country

19 February 2015

Montreal -

Imagine if the number of cancer cases could be cut by half in 30 years. It’s not such a far-fetched idea. A new Canadian Cancer Society (CCS) study, in which Quebec researcher Dr Eduardo Franco from McGill University is participating, will help determine the number of cancer cases that could be avoided by improving our lifestyles and reducing our exposure to environmental carcinogens.


We know that tobacco, asbestos and radon have a direct link with cancer. Excess body weight, poor diet and inactivity can also increase the risk of developing preventable cancer. The CCS study will try to ascertain how and when. It will also investigate the impact of other factors on the incidence of cancer, particularly alcohol consumption, HPV and hepatitis B as well as exposure to air pollution and ultraviolet rays.


« This investigation represents a one-of-a-kind opportunity to learn how much of the burden of cancer that we experience in Canada is due to the different causes and risk factors. We have had this information in rather imprecise form based on data mostly from other countries, says Dr Eduardo Franco, Chair of the Department of Oncology and Director of the Division of Cancer Epidemiology at McGill and co-investigator of this CCSRI-sponsored study. This study will be the first to use specific Quebec and Canadian data and exposure circumstances. Having this information will permit better tailoring of preventive strategies to reduce the incidence of cancer in our country and to reduce potential disparities in access to health promotion.» Dr Eduardo’s contribution to the CCS study is specifically on cancers caused by infections.


Research has already shown that around half of all cancer cases could be prevented by practising healthy behaviours, active living and by adopting public policies that protect health. This new CCS study will provide the most comprehensive and accurate breakdown of cancer risk factors across Canada. The information can then be used to prioritize the implementation of effective and targeted prevention programs to meet the needs of each region in Canada.


Building on the knowledge we already have, this new study will help determine the magnitude of cancer risk as well as the impact of each of these modifiable risk factors on the number of cancer cases diagnosed in Quebec and elsewhere in the country. To do so, the research team will use national and provincial databases, surveys as well as published literature. The national data will also be broken down by province and territory.


“We believe that by quantifying our daily behaviours and knowing what we’re exposing ourselves to, we can better target cancer prevention priorities,” says Jacinthe Hovington, Director of Cancer Prevention at the Canadian Cancer Society – Quebec Division. “At the end of the day, this innovative research funded by the CCS will help us save more lives.”

Other investigators on the study
  • Dr Christine Friedenreich, Head, Division of Preventive Oncology in the University of Calgary’s Department of Oncology, and lead investigator on the study
  • Darren Brenner, Alberta Health Services, Calgary
  • Prithwish De, Cancer Care Ontario, Toronto
  • Paul Demers, Cancer Care Ontario, Toronto
  • Eduardo Franco, McGill University, Montreal
  • Perry Hystad, Oregon State University, Corvallis, Oregon
  • Will King, Queen's University, Kingston
  • Paul Villeneuve, Carleton University, Ottawa
  • Stephen Walter, McMaster University, Hamilton

Every day, the Canadian Cancer Society works to save more lives. With the support of thousands of Quebecers, donors and volunteers, we fight to prevent more cancers, enable our researchers to make more discoveries and help more people touched by the disease. Let’s save more lives. Visit cancer.ca or call us at 1 888 939-3333.

For more information, please contact:

André Beaulieu

Spokesperson and Senior Advisor, Public Relations

Canadian Cancer Society

Quebec Division

Phone: (514) 393-3444