Recently published in the British Journal of Cancer, the figures calculated from 2015 cancer data highlighted smoking as the biggest preventable cause of cancer having caused approximately 32,300 cases of cancer in men (17.7% of all male cancer cases) and approximately 22,000 (12.4%) in women.
The second biggest preventable cause was excess weight with approximately 22,800 (6.3%) of cancer cases a year being down to this factor. The results suggest that more than 1 in 20 cancer cases could be prevented by maintaining a healthy weight.
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The third biggest cause of cancer is overexposure to UV radiation from the sun and sunbeds, which led to 13,600 cases of melanoma a year (3.8% of all cancer cases). Other preventable causes of cancer include drinking alcohol (3.3%), eating too little fiber (3.3%) and outdoor air pollution (1%).
Harpal Kumar (Cancer Research UK, London) commented: “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.”
Kumar continued: “This research clearly demonstrates the impact of smoking and obesity on cancer risk. Prevention is the most cost-effective way of beating cancer and the UK Government could do much more to help people by making a healthy choice the easy choice.”
Linda Bauld (Cancer Research UK) explained: “These new figures show that the battle to conquer smoking-related cancer is far from over. But the declining numbers of smokers show that prevention strategies are working.”
Bauld concluded: “Obesity is a huge health threat right now, and it will only get worse if nothing is done. The UK Government must build on the successes of smoking prevention to reduce the number of weight-related cancers. Banning junk food TV adverts before the 9pm watershed is an important part of the comprehensive approach needed.”