Lifestyle Changes Could Prevent Four in 10 Cancers
Cancer Research UK has found that over 135,000 cases of cancer each year in the UK could be prevented through lifestyle changes such as losing weight, reducing alcohol intake, avoiding over-exposure to the sun, and eating more fibre.
The results from the cancer charity highlight the steps people can take to reduce their risk of cancer, whilst acknowledging that a large proportion of cancers cannot be prevented.
Smoking still the biggest risk
These latest figures are based on cancer data from 2015. They show that four out of 10 cancers could be prevented through lifestyle changes. The rest are those cancer cases that cannot be controlled, for example cancers that occur through changes in genes when we get older; or cancers that are passed down through families.
The figures show that smoking remains the biggest preventable cause of cancer, with tobacco causing 18% of male cancer cases and 12% of female cancer cases.
And cancers that are caused by smoking are not just lung cancers. Lung cancer makes up half of these smoking-related cancers, but smoking also caused thousands of other types of cancer, including bladder and bowel cancer.
Being obese or overweight is the second biggest preventable cause of cancer. Around 6% of cases a year are due to excess weight, with the cancer types including bowel, breast, womb and kidney cancers.
Cancer Research UK have said that obesity has the potential to be ‘the new smoking’. Professor Linda Bauld from Cancer Research UK said: “Obesity is a huge health threat right now, and it will only get worse if nothing is done.
“People regard being large as increasingly normal, and that is a shift in social norms and acceptability.”
The third biggest preventable cause of cancer is over-exposure to UV radiation from the sun or sunbeds. This causes around 13,600 cases of skin cancer a year.
Other preventable causes of cancer include drinking alcohol, not eating enough fibre and being exposed to air pollution.
Dr Katrina Brown, who led the research, said: “This research was looking at the impact of these risk factors on a population level, rather than the effect they would have for an individual person.
“But it can give us an indication of the relative importance of the risk factors for individuals. This is because it considers how much the factor increases individual risk, how many cancer types are affected, and whether those are common cancer types.”
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