Most at risk don’t want to be healthier

Only 58% of over-55s in Britain want to have a healthier diet than they currently do, compared to 18-24 year olds (77%), according to a recent survey by leading cancer prevention charity World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF). Yet 55-64 year olds are the most obese age group in Britain1.

Having a healthy lifestyle can reduce the risk of cancer, yet those most at risk of the disease (over-55s) were also the least aware (58%) that a poor diet increases their cancer risk, according to the WCRF-commissioned YouGov survey. 18-24 year olds were the most aware (66%).

Around 40 per cent of cancer cases are preventable, which equates to about 144,000 cases a year in the UK. After not smoking, eating a healthy diet, being a healthy weight and being physically active are the most important ways to reduce your risk of getting cancer. In fact, being overweight or obese increases your risk of 12 different types of cancer.

Dr Giota Mitrou, Director of Research at WCRF, said:

“It is encouraging that young people are health conscious. However, it’s particularly worrying that the older generation is the least aware and least willing to change. As people are living longer, we are seeing an increase in cancer rates but it is possible to reduce your risk of cancer by having healthier lifestyles.

“There are simple steps and small changes that people can make. Start by taking our Cancer Health Check to see how you could lower your cancer risk.”

Patrick McIntosh, a triple cancer survivor, said:

“It’s never too late to try and reduce your cancer risk. I always wanted to eat a healthier diet but never really got around to making those changes. Then, at the age of 56, I was diagnosed with my first of three cancers. I have now completely changed my way of life and eat what works for my body.

“Thankfully I was diagnosed early and so I use my experience to encourage others to make healthier choices and live longer, healthier lives.”

In May, Patrick will be cycling from Twickenham rugby stadium to Tokyo, in time for the Rugby World Cup, to raise awareness and money for WCRF.


For more information contact:

Maxine Lenza, Press and Communications Officer at WCRF on 020 7343 4235 or

Notes to editors:

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size for the 2019 results was 2094 adults and fieldwork was undertaken between 15–18 February 2019.  

The surveys were carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

About World Cancer Research Fund

World Cancer Research Fund is one of the world’s leading cancer prevention charities, and the only UK charity dedicated to funding life-changing research into the prevention of cancer through diet and lifestyle. We cut through the jargon to turn the latest global research on cancer prevention and survival into practical, straightforward advice and information, helping anyone who wants to reduce their risk of developing cancer to make fully informed lifestyle choices.

Find out more:

Take our Cancer Health Check:

1Obesity Statistics, House of Commons Library Briefing Paper, Number 3336, 20 March 2018. Accessed 21 February 2019.