News & Comment

40 per cent of cancers caused by lifestyle including smoking, claims new report

Wed 7th December, 2011

Nearly half of the cancers diagnosed in the UK each year are caused by smoking, drinking and eating the wrong things, a new review claims.

Smoking, says Cancer Research UK, is far and away the most important lifestyle factor causing 23 per cent of cancers in men and 15.6 per cent in women (nearly one in five cancers).

Tobacco is the biggest culprit, causing 23 per cent of cases in men and 15.6 per cent in women, says the Cancer Research UK report. Next comes a lack of fresh fruit and vegetables in men's diets, while for women it is being overweight.

About 100,000 (34 per cent) of the cancers are linked to smoking, diet, alcohol and excess weight.

The researchers base their calculations on predicted numbers of cases for 18 different types of cancer in 2010, using UK incidence figures for the 15-year period from 1993 to 2007.

Dr Rachel Thompson, of the World Cancer Research Fund, said the report added to the "now overwhelmingly strong evidence that our cancer risk is affected by our lifestyles".

Dr Harpal Kumar, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, said leading a healthy lifestyle did not guarantee a person would not get cancer but the study showed "we can significantly stack the odds in our favour".

"If there are things we can do to reduce our risk of cancer we should do as much as we possibly can," he said.

The president of the Royal College of Physicians, Sir Richard Thompson, said the findings were a wake-up call to the government to take stronger action on public health.

Sources: BBC NewsCancer Research UK (6 December 2011)

Full report: British Journal of Cancer

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