New figures published today by Cancer Research UK have revealed that more than 135,500 cancer cases a year in the UK, equating to 2,500 a week, could be prevented through lifestyle changes.
This figure from the landmark study of cancer cases equates to 37.7% of all cancers diagnosed annually in the UK, rising to 41.5% in Scotland.
The study found that smoking remains the biggest preventable cause of cancer despite the continued decline in smoking rates.
According to research published in the British Journal of Cancer, tobacco smoke was the cause of nearly 32,200 cases of cancer in men and around 22,000 in women in 2015.
The second biggest preventable cause of cancer is excess weight, with around 22,800 cases of cancer a year being due to being overweight or obese. This amounts to around 13,200 cases of cancer in women and 9,600 in men.
Exposure to UV radiation from the Sun and sunbeds was found to be the third biggest preventable cause of cancer, which equates to around 13,600 cases of melanoma skin cancer a year.
Other preventable causes of the disease include drinking alcohol (11,900 cases a year), eating too little fibre (11,700 a year) and outdoor air pollution (3,600 a year).
Healthy lifestyle reduces risk
Sir Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive, said: “Leading a healthy life doesn’t guarantee that a person won’t get cancer, but it can stack the odds in your favour. 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. 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.”
Are prevention strategies working?
Professor Linda Bauld, Cancer Research UK’s prevention expert, said: “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.
“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.”