London | Nearly 600,000 cancer cases in the UK could have been avoided in the last five years if people had healthier lifestyles, according to new research. Overall, experts say that more than four in 10 cancers could be prevented by changes to lifestyle. Smoking remains by far the biggest preventable cause of cancer in the UK, accounting for more than 314,000 cases in the past five years – nearly a fifth of all cancers.
So giving up cigarettes would be the best New Year resolution smokers could make, researchers said. Cancer Research UK’s new figures show a further 145,000 cases could have been prevented if people had eaten a healthy balanced diet low in red and processed meat and salt, and high in vegetables, fruit and fibre. Keeping a healthy weight could have prevented around 88,000 cases.
Cutting down on alcohol, protecting skin in the sun and taking more exercise could also have helped prevent tens of thousands of people in the UK developing cancer in the past five years, researchers said. There’s now little doubt that certain lifestyle choices can have a big impact on cancer risk, with research around the world all pointing to the same key risk factors, said Professor Max Parkin, a Cancer Research UK statistician based at Queen Mary University of London, whose study formed the basis of these latest figures. Leading a healthy lifestyle can’t guarantee someone won’t get cancer but we can stack the odds in our favour by taking positive steps now that will help decrease our cancer risk in future, said Parkin.
There are more than 200 types of cancer each caused by a complex set of factors – involving both our genes and our lifestyles, Professor Linda Bauld, Cancer Research UK’s expert on cancer prevention, said. There are proven ways to minimise our risk of cancer – like giving up smoking, being more active, drinking less alcohol and maintaining a healthy weight. We must make sure the public and the policy-makers know the evidence behind the benefits of these lifestyle changes is solid, Bauld added.
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