Thousands of cancer cases avoidable in the UK

Our new figures reveal that more than 1,000 people are diagnosed with cancer every day in the UK

5 March 2020

New figures from World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) reveal that more than 1,000 people are diagnosed with cancer every day in the UK. However, around 147,000 of these cancers could be prevented every year if we were all healthier1.

Released today by WCRF, the figures also include new UK incidence and mortality data as well as the information on how many cases of cancer could be prevented. The figures – which are the latest available for the UK – show that 366,303 people were diagnosed with cancer in 2017 – this is more than 1,000 people every day. Breast cancer, followed by lung cancer, remain the most common cancers in the UK, and there were more cancer cases in men than in women. In 2017, 165,267 people died from cancer, with lung cancer making up over 20 per cent of deaths1.

Around 40 per cent of cancers could be prevented if everyone was healthier2 – this includes not smoking, eating healthily, being active and maintaining a healthy weight. Other ways include drinking less 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.

Susannah Brown, Head of Research Interpretation at WCRF, said: “When we hear the word cancer, we often think of it as something inevitable that can’t be avoided. However, about 40 per cent of all cancers could be prevented. Eating a healthy diet, being more active each day and maintaining a healthy weight are, after not smoking, the most important ways to reduce cancer risk. We want to change the narrative so that people feel empowered to make healthier choices, instead of feeling defeatist about cancer as an inevitable future.”

Last week’s Marmot Review revealed that life expectancy in the UK has stalled for the first time in a century and health inequalities are increasing3. A healthy lifestyle reduces the risk of cancer and other diseases, but the environments in which we live can make it difficult for people to make those healthy choices.

Caroline Cerny, Alliance Lead at the Obesity Health Alliance, said: “Our environment is flooded with unhealthy food, which can overwhelm families and make healthy eating extremely challenging. The government has a key role to play in shaping an environment that supports health. A major part of this is addressing the tide of junk food marketing with a 9pm watershed on junk food adverts and restrictions on promotions.”

Ends

For more information and media enquiries contact Maxine Lenza, Senior Press and Communications Officer at WCRF, on 020 7343 4235 or m.lenza@wcrf.org.

References

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

2World Health Organization (WHO), Cancer Prevention, accessed 24/02/2020.

3Health Equity in England: The Marmot Review 10 Years On, accessed 28/02/2020.

Notes to editors

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.