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Gupta: Health basics could slash cancer rates

Dr. Sanjay Gupta
Dr. Sanjay Gupta

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(CNN) -- According to a new report, medical experts say that if some basic health steps already known were implemented, there would be a dramatic decrease in the number of deaths from cancer.

CNN Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta discussed the report Tuesday with CNN Anchor Heidi Collins.

GUPTA: There's about a million new cases of cancer every year and about 1,500 people die of cancer every day. Those are startling numbers, but even more startling is that there's an incredible gap between what we know as a society and what we practice.

And now, Heidi, people are going back to some of the fundamentals.

The Institute of Medicine, which is part of the National Academy of Science, as well as the American Cancer Society, are getting together today, having a meeting, and they're releasing an executive summary.

Here's the headline: 19 percent of all cancer cases could actually be prevented by the year 2015 if people start to use information that we know already.

Twenty-nine percent of cancer deaths prevented, again, by focusing on the fundamentals, such as tobacco use, sedentary lifestyle, obesity and cancer screening. If people used all of that stuff, actually focused on that stuff, again, then you can actually cut down these cancer deaths and rates by quite a bit.

The numbers, just the absolute numbers, as well, 100,000 cancer cases a year could actually be eliminated and 60,000 cancer deaths. We're not talking about any new drugs, no new treatments here, just focusing on what we know.

COLLINS: So actively, Sanjay, exactly what can we do right now to prevent cancer?

GUPTA: It's stuff that we talk about all the time. And I think that there are numbers now to actually back this up. Take a look at some of the most common risk factors -- tobacco use, physical inactivity, overweight and obesity, poor diet and alcohol use.

All of those things contribute to cancer, and most people don't realize it. I guess they sort of know it's bad for your health, but these things actually contribute to cancer.

So, the things you can do obviously, avoiding tobacco, maintaining a healthy body weight, regular physical activity, and early detection really being the key. And all of these things are linked to various kinds of cancers, but also, Heidi, there are additional health benefits from doing these things as well.

A lot of those things ... also reduce the risk of heart disease, reduce the risk of stroke -- those are also big killers as well -- and diabetes and osteoporosis.

The headline really is there are so many things that we already know. This is not new information. But now you have some real numbers to sort of show just what an impact -- 20 percent of all cancer rates almost and almost one-third of all cancer deaths produced -- if you just follow the fundamentals, as my high school coach used to say.

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