How lifestyle changes can cut your cancer risk

Smoking is still the biggest preventable cause of cancer in the United Kingdom,

More than 2 500 cases of cancer a week in the UK could be prevented through making simple healthy lifestyle changes, according to new research from a leading cancer charity.

Carried out by Cancer Research UK, the study looked at 2015 cancer data to find that more than 135 500 cancer cases a year, 37.7% of all cancers diagnosed in the UK, could be avoided.

The research found that smoking is still the biggest preventable cause of cancer in the UK, despite the continued decline in smoking rates thanks to goverment’s success with preventation strategies.

In 2015, tobacco smoke caused around 32 200 cases of cancer in men (17.7% of all male cancer cases) and around 22 000 (12.4%) in women.

Being overweight or obese was found to be the second biggest preventable cause of cancer, causing 13 200 (7.5%) cases of cancer in women and around 9 600 (5.2%) in men.


Research published in the British Journal of Cancer shows that obesity causes 13 different types of cancer, including bowel, breast, womb and kidney.

Previous research has found that obesity is associated with 13 different types of cancer, including bowel, breast, womb and kidney, with the researchers adding that maintaining a healthy weight could prevent more than 1 in 20 cancer cases.

The third biggest preventable cause of cancer was found to be too much exposure to UV radiation from the sun and sunbeds, which accounted for 13 600 cases of melanoma skin cancer a year (3.8% of all cancer cases).

Sunbed use for under 18s has been against the law in Scotland since 2009, England and Wales since 2011, and Northern Ireland since 2012. However, Cancer Research UK still cautions against their use by adults and advises that people of all ages take care when out in the sun.

Other lifestyle factors linked to cancer included drinking alcohol, causing around 11 900 cases each year, and eating too little fiber, responsible for around 11 700 cases.

Beer is poured into a glass on October 1, 2012. Image AFP

Photo: AFP

Air pollution, which is a growing problem globally and now linked to a variety of health concerns, caused around 3 600 lung cancer cases a year, and 1% of all cancer cases. However, it still causes far fewer cases of lung cancer than tobacco.

Sir Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, commented on the findings, saying: “Leading a healthy life doesn’t guarantee that a person won’t get cancer, but it can stack the odds in your favor. These figures show that we each can take positive steps to help reduce our individual risk of the disease. This research clearly demonstrates the impact of smoking and obesity on cancer risk.”


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