Cardiovascular and cancer risk factors analysis for 2001–2020 from the global research output and European newspapers

Elena Pallari, Grant Lewison*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Cancer and cardiovascular disease (CVD) are now two of the leading components of the global burden of disease, especially in high- and upper-middle-income countries. Causes of the diseases that are amenable to intervention are multiple: tobacco control closely followed by obesity treatment, including promotion of a healthy diet and physical exercise, remain the global priorities. We interrogated the Web of Science (WoS) from 2001 to 2020 to determine the numbers of papers describing research into 14 different possible risk factors causing the two diseases. These ranged in relative importance from tobacco and being overweight to the consumption of excessively hot drinks (linked to oesophageal cancer), pollution (linked to lung cancer particularly) and also non-interventional genetic risks. The risks varied between different continental regions, and obesity has increased as a risk factor for CVD in some of these regions. Because many of these factors are subject to human behavioural choices, we also investigated how such research was being presented to the European public through newspaper reportage. About 40% of the factors that influence the cancer burden can be attributed to particular causes, and more than 85% of those factors influencing CVD can also be so attributed. They are led by tobacco use as a risk factor for cancer, but this is slowly declining in most high-income settings. For CVD, the major risks are metabolic, such as high systolic blood pressure and high body-mass index, but also from tobacco use. Research outputs on some of these different factors in the continental regions correlated positively with their influence on the disease burdens. The selection of European newspaper stories was biased towards those risk factors that could be considered as being under the control of their readers. Reports of research in the mass media have an important role in the control of both cancer and CVD, and should be regarded by public health authorities as a useful means to promulgate health education. This paper is based on one presented at the ISSI conference in Leuven in July 2021 (Pallari and Lewison, in: Glänzel et al (eds) Proceedings of the 18th international conference on scientometrics and informetrics, 2021), but has been extended to cover CVD as well as cancer. The geographical analysis of risk factors and research publications has also been modified.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5159-5174
Number of pages16
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2022


  • Cancer
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Newspaper stories
  • Research publications
  • Risk factors


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