Supporting the next UK government to address cancer risk for all

General Election 2024 sign in front of Westminster and Big Ben

Ahead of the General Election next month, we’ve created a must-do list to address devastating rates of cancer in the UK. Senior Public Affairs Officer Jennifer O’Mara shares what needs to happen in the first 100 days and first year of the next government.

We’ve launched our Policy Priorities to Prevent Cancer ahead of the UK General Election on 4 July 2024 to put cancer prevention, and living well during and beyond cancer, high on the political agenda. Our Policy Priorities to Prevent Cancer is a to-do list for the next government to make a real difference to people’s lives. Our list builds on years of evidence and examples of what governments around the world are doing well.

Reducing cancer cases and increasing survival rates is crucial as the population grows and ages. Around 1 in 2 people will face cancer in their lifetime. Yet 40% of cancer cases are preventable – 184,000 potentially preventable cancer cases were diagnosed in the UK last year. Preventing cancer is essential.

What are our priorities?

Policy Priorities for Cancer PeventionOur Policy Priorities to Prevent Cancer address 5 areas and build on our Cancer Prevention Recommendations.

The 5 areas the government must address are:

  1. Prioritise cancer prevention across government.
  2. Improve the nation’s diet.
  3. Get everyone moving more.
  4. Reduce the nation’s alcohol consumption.
  5. Increase support and resources for patients, health professionals and research.

We also cannot ignore the link between cancer and tobacco, and we urge the incoming government to take forward proposals in the Tobacco and Vaping Bill, which failed to become law before the General Election.

Regulating junk food marketing is urgent

The next government must ensure that legislation to restrict the advertising of less healthy products is implemented before the end of September.

This policy could reduce the number of children living with obesity by around 20,000 and significantly improve the health of children living in Britain. However, it has already been delayed for more than 2.5 years.

It is unsurprising that most food adverts children see promote unhealthy food, and the evidence shows that children exposed to this marketing have a higher risk of living with obesity. Childhood obesity tracks into adulthood and obesity is linked to 13 different types of cancer. If the policy is successfully rolled out, no unhealthy food would be marketed on TV or online between 5am and 9pm. Think about how different TV and online advertising would look!

Cutting costs and cancer cases

It is critical that the new government drives action to promote cancer prevention, particularly in a cost-of-living crisis in the UK. It is becoming increasingly difficult to be able to afford and access healthy, nutritious food, especially for people in lower socio-economic communities.

There is a huge economic cost to cancer. In 2023, 184,000 potentially preventable cancer cases were diagnosed in the UK, costing an estimated £113bn – that’s 5% of annual GDP.

Investing in cancer research is excellent value, generating £2.80 of economic benefit for every £1 invested. However, only 5.5% of the total expenditure in cancer research funds work on prevention – £35mn out of £628mn in 2020–21.

Working for change across parliament

Members of Parliament are important people for us to work with as they can influence policy and hold the government accountable to drive cancer prevention up the agenda. We will also reach out to new ministers and opposition politicians.

We will continue working with non-governmental organisations such as the Obesity Health Alliance and Alcohol Health Alliance to pool our resources and amplify our voices when advocating for the same issues.

We will also engage with All-Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs). These are informal cross-party groups that don’t have an official status within parliament but can be very influential, such as the APPG on Obesity, APPG on Cancer and APPG on Alcohol Harm.

We look forward to welcoming new MPs and establishing long-lasting and fruitful relationships that can deliver change and reduce preventable cases of cancer.

> Read our Policy Priorities to Prevent Cancer

> Our letter to the editors of the UK’s national newspapers