Current Epidemiology Reports

, Volume 3, Issue 3, pp 201–211 | Cite as

Population Attributable and Preventable Fractions: Cancer Risk Factor Surveillance, and Cancer Policy Projection

  • Kevin D. ShieldEmail author
  • D. Maxwell Parkin
  • David C. Whiteman
  • Jürgen Rehm
  • Vivian Viallon
  • Claire Marant Micallef
  • Paolo Vineis
  • Lesley Rushton
  • Freddie Bray
  • Isabelle Soerjomataram
Cancer Epidemiology (G Colditz, Section Editor)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Cancer Epidemiology


The proportions of new cancer cases and deaths that are caused by exposure to risk factors and that could be prevented are key statistics for public health policy and planning. This paper summarizes the methodologies for estimating, challenges in the analysis of, and utility of, population attributable and preventable fractions for cancers caused by major risk factors such as tobacco smoking, dietary factors, high body fat, physical inactivity, alcohol consumption, infectious agents, occupational exposure, air pollution, sun exposure, and insufficient breastfeeding. For population attributable and preventable fractions, evidence of a causal relationship between a risk factor and cancer, outcome (such as incidence and mortality), exposure distribution, relative risk, theoretical-minimum-risk, and counterfactual scenarios need to be clearly defined and congruent. Despite limitations of the methodology and the data used for estimations, the population attributable and preventable fractions are a useful tool for public health policy and planning.


Risk Neoplasms Etiology Prevention and control Mortality Incidence Population attributable fraction 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Kevin D. Shield, D. Maxwell Parkin, David C. Whiteman, Jürgen Rehm, Vivian Viallon, Claire Marant Micallef, Paolo Vineis, Lesley Rushton, Freddie Bray, Isabelle Soerjomataram declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.

Funding Sources

French National Cancer Institute [contract number 2015-002].


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kevin D. Shield
    • 1
    Email author
  • D. Maxwell Parkin
    • 2
  • David C. Whiteman
    • 3
  • Jürgen Rehm
    • 4
  • Vivian Viallon
    • 5
  • Claire Marant Micallef
    • 1
  • Paolo Vineis
    • 6
    • 7
  • Lesley Rushton
    • 8
  • Freddie Bray
    • 1
  • Isabelle Soerjomataram
    • 1
  1. 1.Section of Cancer SurveillanceInternational Agency for Research on CancerLyon CEDEX 08France
  2. 2.Centre for Cancer Prevention, Wolfson Institute of Preventive MedicineQueen Mary University of LondonLondonUK
  3. 3.Population HealthQIMR Berghofer Medical Research InstituteBrisbaneAustralia
  4. 4.Institute for Mental Health Policy ResearchCentre for Addiction and Mental HealthTorontoCanada
  5. 5.Université de Lyon, Université Lyon 1, UMRESTTE IFSTTAR, UMRESTTELyonFrance
  6. 6.Human Genetics FoundationTorinoItaly
  7. 7.MRC-PHE Center for Environment and HealthSchool of Public Health, Imperial College LondonLondonUK
  8. 8.Faculty of MedicineSchool of Public Health, Imperial College of LondonLondonUK

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