Policy priorities to prevent cancer

Preventable cancer cases diagnosed in 2023 alone cost the healthcare system £3.7 billion.

We’re calling on the next government to prioritise cancer prevention by acting on our 5 priority areas.

> Our 5 priority areas

> Our Top 3 priorities for the first 100 days

> Top 10 priorities for the first year

Our 5 priority areas

  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

Cancer prevention must be a top priority for the UK government

Around 1 in 2 people will face cancer in their lifetime, disproportionately affecting vulnerable groups.

Approximately 40% of cancers are preventable by addressing key risk factors such as poor diets, obesity, low physical activity levels, and alcohol consumption, alongside socio-economic disparities and funding shortages.

Obesity increases the risk of over 13 different cancers, while alcohol consumption increases the risk of seven cancers. All these factors also impact outcomes and long-term health after a cancer diagnosis.

Top 3 priorities for the first 100 days

  1. URGENT: Implement delayed restrictions on unhealthy food multibuy offers and TV/online advertising
  2. Reaffirm commitments to halving childhood obesity by 2030
  3. Commission an independent review to inform the development of a national alcohol strategy

A nation and healthcare system in ill health

The Office of Budget Responsibility identifies economic inactivity due to ill health as a significant economic risk.

In 2023, 184,000 potentially preventable cancer cases were diagnosed in the UK (out of an estimated 375,000 new annual cases), costing an estimated £113bn or 5.07% of annual GDP.

From 2023 to 2040, the cost is projected at £113tn with an annual cost of at least £90bn, excluding 2023.

Preventable cancer cases diagnosed in 2023 alone cost the healthcare system £3.7bn, with secondary care accounting for 95% of these costs.

With a healthcare system under strain, preventing cancer is essential.

Top 10 priorities for the first year

  1. Develop a ring-fenced funded 10-year cancer strategy, supported by an action plan with prevention at the heart
  2. Implement a new public health act in England to consolidate existing legislation
  3. Develop an effective cross-government health inequalities strategy and action plan with clear targets
  4. Invest Soft Drinks Industry levy (SDIL) revenue to improve child health and make healthy foods more affordable, accessible, and available
  5. Expand eligibility for the School Fruit and Vegetable Scheme (or Healthy Start Scheme) and Free School Meals
  6. Implement a more robust mandatory front-of-pack food label across all products
  7. Restrict all unhealthy food locations in high footfall areas both online and in retail stores
  8. Publish new guidance stating the planning system should promote good health, safe residential areas, reduce health inequalities, and prioritise public health priorities
  9. Support the inclusion of nutrition and physical activity advice along the cancer treatment pathway
  10. Implement a long-term, ring-fenced funded Cabinet-led science strategy prioritising cancer prevention research

A prescription for policy action

Reducing preventable cancer cases and increasing survival rates is crucial as the population grows and ages.

Evidence-based policies, protected from commercial influence, can promote healthy diets, breastfeeding, physical activity, and reduced alcohol intake and reduce preventable cancer cases.

These policies also support broader health, economic, and societal goals, including addressing other preventable diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular disease, meeting environmental targets, and reducing inequalities.

> Download our full policy priorities for further details and references (PDF 203KB)

> On the blog: Supporting the next UK government to address cancer risk for all

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