Number of preventable cancer cases continues to rise

18 September 2015

The number of cases of cancer which could be prevented if people made simple changes to their lifestyles has risen sharply, according to new figures from a leading cancer prevention charity

World Cancer Research Fund says that about 84,000 cases a year in the UK could now be prevented by eating well, moving more and being a healthy weight, an increase of 3,000 compared to the previous 12 month period.

Dr Rachel Thompson, World Cancer Research Fund’s Head of Research Interpretation, said: “These figures reinforce the importance of our Cancer Prevention Recommendations. The number of cases of cancer is increasing each year, but we mustn’t stand by idly and watch – there are things we can do.

“There is no doubt that simple changes to diet and lifestyle can make a huge difference in the battle against cancer. Even minor adjustments like 10 to 15 extra minutes of physical activity each day, cutting down on alcohol, or limiting your intake of high calorie foods and sugary drinks will help decrease your cancer risk.”

The charity based its startling estimate on the latest official statistics from England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland relating to cancer incidence data. During the 12 month period in question, 351,578 new cases of cancer were diagnosed in the UK.

The charity estimates that about a third of the most common cancer cases could be prevented through improved diet, physical activity and body weight.

The most common cancer for British women during the period was breast cancer, which accounted for almost one in three of all new cancer cases. In men, prostate cancer was the most common cancer, making up 26 per cent of cases.

The charity’s Continuous Update Project estimates that about 38 per cent of breast cancer cases in the UK could be prevented by not drinking alcohol, maintaining a healthy weight and being physically active. While the preventability estimates for prostate cancer may be less striking, about nine per cent of potentially lethal advanced prostate cancers could be prevented by being a healthy weight.

“After not smoking, being a healthy body weight is actually the most important thing you can do to reduce your risk of getting cancer,” said Rachel Thompson. “There is strong evidence that being overweight or obese increases the risk of ten cancers.”

World Cancer Research Fund UK Director Amanda McLean said: “We are absolutely clear that prevention must be part of the solution to the cancer epidemic. As the number of new cases of cancer increases each year, we are kidding ourselves if we think we can treat our way out of the problem.”

Notes to editors:

Sources of figures on cancer incidence