Published: Sun, March 25, 2018
Medicine | By Daryl Nelson

Unhealthy lifestyles giving rise to 2500 cancer cases a week

Unhealthy lifestyles giving rise to 2500 cancer cases a week

Obesity only trails smoking as the main preventable cause of cancer in the UK.

"We took data from national surveys showing how common each risk factor is in the population, and data from the United Kingdom cancer registries showing how many cases of each cancer type there are". In research published this week, it highlighted how obesity caused 17,000 cancer cases in 2010 but this figure rose to 23,000 in 2017.

Smoking remains the biggest lifestyle cause of cancer, responsible for 54,000 cases - 15.1 per cent - annually, but the toll is falling as more people kick the habit.

Exposure to substances such as asbestos and UV radiation in the workplace each caused nearly 4% of cancer cases, while air pollution, consumption of processed meat and not breastfeeding each accounted for less than 2% of cancer cases.

Janet Boak, 55, was diagnosed with womb cancer four years ago and says her weight and lifestyle were to blame.

'Maintaining a healthy weight is one of the most important things you can do for your health'.

The grandmother of three, from Carlisle, said she weighed 20 stone at the time and admits she did no exercise.

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According to its findings, alcohol, low-fibre diets and "infections such as HPV" each account for just over 3% of cancer cases per year in the UK.

Prof Mel Greaves, a cancer biologist at the Institute of Cancer Research, in London, said the study was an "endorsement" of the idea that many cancers were potentially preventable.

However, overall the analysis found the proportion of preventable cases of cancer had fallen - from 42.7% in 2011 to 37.7%.

The CRUK research team hopes authorities would help curb cancer rates through tobacco and junk food taxes, advertising bans, and boring packaging for cigarettes.

"What the researchers are getting at is that if obesity can be reduced, by tackling the factors that lead to obesity, cancer rates could be reduced too".

"Given the now high rates of obesity in young people, this represents (like cigarette smoking) a major societal challenge beyond the bounds of the medical arena".

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