The causes of cancer in France

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BackgroundWhile external factors are responsible for many human cancers, precise estimates of the contribution of known carcinogens to the cancer burden in a given population have been scarce.MethodsWe estimated the proportion of cancer deaths which occurred in France in 2000 attributable to known risk factors, based on data on frequency of exposure around 1985.ResultsIn 2000, tobacco smoking was responsible for 23.9% of cancer deaths (33.4% in men and 9.6% in women), alcohol drinking for 6.9% (9.4% in men and 3.0% in women) and chronic infections for 3.7%. Occupation is responsible for 3.7% of cancer deaths in men; lack of physical activity, overweight/obesity and use of exogenous hormones are responsible for 2%–3% of cancer deaths in women. Other risk factors, including pollutants, are responsible for <1% of cancer deaths. Thus, known risk factors explain 35.0% of cancer deaths, and 15.0% among never smokers.ConclusionsWhile cancer mortality is decreasing in France, known risk factors of cancer explain only a minority of cancers, with a predominant role of tobacco smoking.

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