Fast food, alcohol and too much sun exposure contribute to around 400 preventable cancers a day in the UK, experts warn today.
They estimate that around 155,000 diagnoses could be prevented each year if Britons led a healthier lifestyle.
Reducing red meat, avoiding processed meats and drinking less alcohol are among the World Cancer Research Fund’s recommendations to help reduce the risk of getting the disease.
About 387,820 people were diagnosed with cancer in 2019/20, an increase of more than 20,000 in two years, despite the disruption of services due to the Covid pandemic.
Fast food, alcohol and too much sun exposure contribute to around 400 preventable cancers a day in the UK, experts warn today
About four in 10 of these cases could be prevented with better lifestyle choices, such as eating healthier, not smoking and exercising more, the charity said.
Breast cancer was the most common type with 56,987 new diagnoses, closely followed by prostate cancer with 55,068.
Lung cancer remains the deadliest – 34,171 deaths in 2019/20 – and the second most common, with 48,754 new cases.
These numbers are slightly lower than 35,180 and 48,017 respectively. Cases of fatal melanoma from skin cancer, which can be caused by overexposure to the sun, rose from 16,183 to 17,845 over the two-year period.
Cases of deadly melanoma from skin cancer, which can be caused by overexposure to the sun, rose from 16,183 to 17,845 in the two-year period
By now, there were 44,706 cases and 17,484 deaths from colon cancer, which are increasingly linked to lifestyle factors.
Being overweight or obese is linked to a higher risk of 13 cancers, including breast, uterine, colon, liver, kidney and pancreatic cancer. Smoking is estimated to be responsible for 70 percent of lung cancer cases, nearly a fifth of all new cancer cases each year.
But with about two-thirds of adults and one-third of children being overweight or obese, experts warn it is only a matter of time before smoking overtakes smoking as the leading cause of the disease.
The data suggests that the number of preventable cases has increased by 8,000 since 2017/18.
dr. Vanessa Gordon-Dseagu, of the WCRF, which funds scientists around the world to research ways to prevent cancer, said population aging will continue to accelerate in the coming decades.
Reducing red meat, avoiding processed meats and drinking less alcohol are among the World Cancer Research Fund’s recommendations to help reduce the risk of getting the disease
But she suggested that the risk of many cancers could be lowered by avoiding alcohol, eating no more than three servings of red meat a week, and little or no processed meat.
Other measures include staying safe in the sun and nursing mothers when possible.
“Over the years, research has estimated that about 40 percent of cancers are associated with modifiable risk factors,” added Dr Gordon-Dseagu.
‘This includes smoking and limiting sun exposure. In addition, research has shown that by following the WCRF’s cancer prevention recommendations, individuals can reduce their risk.
“Screening plays a critical role in improving cancer outcomes — the earlier a person is diagnosed, the more likely they are to survive.”
The charity’s report comes after Cancer Research UK said ‘smoking cessation’ would reduce deaths from the disease, which are linked to disadvantaged areas.
A study published last week in the journal PLOS One found that if no one smoked in England, the number of fatalities would drop from 27,200 to 16,500.