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More Than 30% of Cancers Would
Be Prevented With Healthier Lifestyles

Around 80,000 cases of cancer could be prevented every year if we abandoned our couch potato lifestyles and ate more healthily, say scientists.

Not only would eating more fruit and vegetables, cutting down on alcohol and taking regular exercise cut cancer rates by more than a third, it would also slash the cost of treating the disease on the NHS.

According to the analysis of 23 experts by the World Cancer Research Fund, Britain is now on a par with America when it comes to preventable cancer cases.

Professor Martin Wiseman, the charity's scientific and medical adviser, said: 'Because we read so much about America's problems with obesity and junk food, people may find it surprising that the proportion of cancer cases related to diet, physical activity and weight is just as bad here in the UK.

'It is true that a higher proportion of cancer cases in the U.S. are linked to body fat, but not by much.

'In the U.S. we estimate that for the seven types of cancer that are weight related, just under 20 per cent could be prevented through people being a healthy weight. In the UK, this figure is about 17 per cent.

'But one reason the overall situation in the UK is as bad is the amount of alcohol we drink and this means we need to do more to raise awareness that alcohol increases cancer risk.'

Last year, a report from the WCRF revealed 39 per cent of cases of the 12 major cancers were preventable with a better diet, more exercise and less drinking.

The figures showed that 78,748 cases of the 207,000 new cases of cancer each year were caused by unhealthy lifestyles. That includes 19,000 cases of breast cancer and 16,100 cases of bowel cancer.

The latest analysis reports around a fifth of cancer cases in Britain are linked to drinking too much  -  double the estimate for the U.S.

It shows that each year in the UK, 7,450 cases of mouth, pharynx and larynx cancer are diagnosed, of which 4,992 are estimated to be preventable.

There are another 7,828 cases of oesophageal cancer, of which 5,871 could be prevented.

Of 39,025 cases of lung cancer, 12,878 could be prevented while 3,471 cases of stomach cancer could be prevented out of 7,714.

Other cancers affected by lifestyle include prostate, pancreatic, gallbladder, liver, kidney and bowel.

The WCRF figures do not take into account cancer that would be prevented by giving up smoking. Tobacco is to blame for around a third of cases of the disease.

Professor Wiseman added: 'These estimates are a concern because they mean there are many cases of cancer in the UK every year that could have been prevented by relatively simple lifestyle changes.

'But the high proportion of potentially preventable cases also means that as a country we have a lot to gain by making lifestyle changes.'

April 9, 2010


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