Number of preventable cancer cases rises by 8,000

Latest UK data from 2019–2020 shows a significant increase in preventable cancer cases.

27 September 2022

Figures from World Cancer Research Fund reveal that 1,063 people are diagnosed with cancer every day in the UK. However, around 155,000 of these cancers could be prevented every year – an increase of 8,000 preventable cases compared with 2017 data – if people followed World Cancer Research Fund’s Cancer Prevention Recommendations, as well as avoiding smoking and sun exposure.

Released by World Cancer Research Fund today, the figures also include new UK incidence and mortality data, and information on how many cancer cases could be prevented. The figures – which are the latest available for the UK – show that 387,820 people were diagnosed with cancer in 2019/2020, which is more than 1,000 people every day.

Breast cancer most common in UK

Breast, followed by lung, cancers remain the most common in the UK. Overall, there were more cancer cases in men than in women. In 2019/2020, 166,502 people died from cancer, with lung cancer making up over 20 per cent of cancer deaths1.

These figures were produced during COVID-19, and it will be important to understand the impact of the pandemic on cancer incidence, as well as how it has changed the provision of cancer services including screening.

Around 40 per cent of cancers could be prevented through lifestyle changes such as eating healthily, being active, maintaining a healthy weight and not smoking. Other ways include avoiding drinking alcohol, eating no more than three portions of red meat a week and little, if any, processed meat, breastfeeding if you can, and being safe in the sun. A healthy diet for cancer prevention consists of a wide variety of fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, and very little junk food including sugary drinks, all of which are part of World Cancer Research Fund’s Cancer Prevention Recommendations.

Dr Vanessa Gordon-Dseagu, Research Interpretation Manager at World Cancer Research Fund, said:

Over the years, research has estimated that around 40 per cent of cancers are associated with modifiable risk factors. These risk factors include smoking and limiting sun exposure. Alongside this, research has shown that, by following World Cancer Research Fund’s Cancer Prevention Recommendations, individuals can reduce their cancer risk. It is also important to remember that our population is ageing, so we are likely to see incidence of cancer continue to increase over the next few decades. Screening plays a vital role in improving cancer outcomes – the earlier someone is diagnosed, the more likely they are to survive.

For more information on the recent cancer deaths and survival statistics, please visit our UK cancer statistics page, which also provides detail on the most common cancers for men and women.


For more information and media enquiries contact: Marianne Kellner, Media & PR Officer at World Cancer Research Fund on 07717 131 883 /

Notes to editors

1World Cancer Research Fund cancer statistics based on combined data from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, 2019/2020.

It is estimated that around 40% of cancers are associated with modifiable risk factors. Approximately half of this percentage is caused by smoking; other factors include overweight and obesity, diet, nutrition, drinking alcohol, and physical activity.

About World Cancer Research Fund

World Cancer Research Fund examines how diet, nutrition, body weight and physical activity affect your risk of developing and surviving cancer. As part of an international network of charities, we have been funding life-saving research, influencing global public health policy, and educating the public since 1982. While society continues searching for a cure, our prevention and survival work is helping people live longer, happier, healthier lives – free from the devastating effects of cancer. and Twitter, Facebook, Instagram & LinkedIn.

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