Nearly four in 10 cancers preventable with lifestyle changes

  • Date: 26 March 2018

OVER 37 per cent of cancers diagnosed each year in the UK could be prevented through lifestyle changes, according to new figures from Cancer Research UK.

The figures calculated from 2015 cancer data found that smoking remains the biggest preventable cause of cancer, despite the continued decline in smoking rates. Tobacco smoke caused around 32,200 cases of cancer in men (17.7 per cent of all male cancer cases) and around 22,000 (12.4 per cent) in women.

Excess weight is the second largest preventable cause of cancer with around 22,800 (6.3 per cent) cases each year attributed to excess weight or obesity. The third most preventable cause is overexposure to UV radiation from the sun and sunbeds, which causes around 13,600 cases of melanoma a year (3.8 per cent of all cancer cases).

Other preventable causes of cancer include drinking alcohol and eating too little fibre (causing around 11,900 and around 11,700 cases respectively, which is 3.3 per cent each), and outdoor air pollution which is blamed for around 3,600 lung cancer cases a year (1 per cent).

Sir Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, said: "Leading a healthy life doesn’t guarantee that a person won’t get cancer, but it can stack the odds in your favour. These figures show that we each can take positive steps to help reduce our individual risk of the disease.

"This research clearly demonstrates the impact of smoking and obesity on cancer risk. Prevention is the most cost-effective way of beating cancer and the UK Government could do much more to help people by making a healthy choice the easy choice."

The study was published in the British Journal of Cancer.

This page was correct at the time of publication. Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.

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