Contrary to the belief that cancer is a matter of bad luck or genetics, a new study has found nearly 40 percent of deaths caused by the disease can be avoided if people try and reduce the risk factors. According to a report by Science Alert, researchers, after analyzing official data for Australia in 2013, discovered 38 percent of cancer related deaths — which amounts to 16,700 deaths in total — could be prevented by following a healthy lifestyle.

The study stated if one could manage the modifiable risk factors i.e. factors which could be altered by people, it can make a big difference in the number of cancer cases. The research supports a 2014 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in United States, which said 21 percent of cancer related deaths were preventable.

It added 23 percent of cancer-related deaths were due to smoking tobacco. Other factors such as infections, obesity and poor diet each accounted for 5 percent of the deaths.

Some of the other risk factors that were modifiable included UV radiation, which accounted for 3.2 percent of deaths (1390 people), less physical activity [0.8 percent of deaths (357 people)], alcohol consumption [2.4 percent of deaths (1037 people)] and reproductive or hormonal factors [0.4 percent of deaths (172 people)].

The reason that all the above factors add up to more than 38 percent is because some of the factors co-occur, which results in cancer.

One of the researchers, David Whiteman from QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute said, “Cancer is the biggest cause of death in Australia. It claimed 44,000 lives in 2013 and caused untold grief and heartache to many more.”

Whiteman continued, “While in many cases cancer is tragically unavoidable, this study highlights what we've known for years: cancer isn't always a matter of genetics or bad luck."

The study further stated these eight factors result in 41 percent of deaths in males and 34 percent of deaths among females in Australia.

Referring to the above statistics, Whiteman said, “The proportions of potentially preventable cancer deaths are higher among men than women because, on average, men smoke and drink more, spend more time in the sun, and don't eat as well.”

The data also showed lung, bowel, liver, stomach and skin cancer were the most preventable types of cancer. However, if someone drinks a lot of alcohol does not mean he/she will definitely get cancer. But these activities increase the risk of getting the disease, stated the report.

Berghofer Medical Research Institute came out with a free guide on how to reduce the risk of cancer. This research was published in the International Journal of Cancer.

“There is a lot people can do to reduce their risk of developing and dying from cancer,” said Whiteman. “Even small improvements in these areas would substantially reduce the number of people who die prematurely from cancer each year,” he added.