Recent research by Cancer Research UK (CRUK) indicates that four of every 10 cases of cancer in the UK could be avoided through lifestyle change such as a weight loss, quitting smoking, and cutting down on alcohol consumption. Above all, smoking was the leading cause, responsible for over 15 percent of the cancer cases, according to the Guardian.

The study’s lead author, Dr. Katrina Brown, said:

“Lung cancer contributes well over half of those smoking-related cases, but there are also thousands of cancers of smoking-related bladder, esophageal and bowel cancers every year to name just a few.”

Excess weight was the second biggest cause of cancer, according to the research. While rates of cigarette smoking have declined by roughly 1 percent each year, there has been no such decline in obesity, which accounted for 6.3 percent of the cancer cases.

The researchers called on the government to consider tobacco taxes and restrictions on advertising to help reduce smoking rates, and to limit junk food ads to help reduce obesity. The researchers also said the food industry needs new recipes with lower levels of salt, sugar, and fat. But they also called for a shift in the public’s attitude, to prevent obesity and overeating from becoming “the new smoking.”

According to professor Linda Bauld, involved with CRUK’s behavioral research on cancer prevention:

“People regard being large as increasingly normal, and that is a shift in social norms and acceptability. We need to get back down to what is the normal while recognizing the challenges individuals face.”

Researchers note that survival rates for cancer are improving, but that the rate of new cancer cases has risen 7 percent over the last decade, and is expected to rise an additional 2 percent annually.

The research was published in the British Journal of Cancer, and was based on a combination of national surveys, cancer registries, and data from prior studies.

Alcohol, lack of dietary fiber, and infections like HPV each accounted for 3 percent of cases, and workplace exposure to materials such as asbestos, as well as UV radiation, each accounted for 4 percent. Air pollution, processed meat, not breastfeeding, and radiation exposure were each linked to less than 2 percent of cases. This data accounts for the overlap between different lifestyle factors.

In Scotland, 41.5 percent of cases were considered preventable, while in England that figure was slightly lower, at at 37.3 percent. Brown attributed this to the way socioeconomics is linked to the lifestyle factors that can cause cancer.

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