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Lifestyle changes could slash cancer rates

In 2010, around 43% of cancer cases seen in the UK were caused by lifestyle and environmental factors, according to several news sources today. This equated to around 134,000 cancers caused by potentially avoidable behaviours such as smoking, drinking alcohol and eating a poor diet.

The news is based on an extensive report that has estimated how lifestyle factors can influence a range of cancers. Tobacco smoking was the biggest risk factor for cancer, responsible for over 19% of all new cases. Other factors included being overweight (5.5% of cases), having a poor diet (9.2%) and drinking too much alcohol (4%). As cancers usually have multiple causes, these figures do not mean that we can identify specific people whose cancer was caused by each of these factors, but they can help to estimate how many cases could be prevented by cutting out all of these harmful factors.

“Many people believe cancer is down to fate or ‘in the genes’ and that it is the luck of the draw whether they get it,” said Professor Max Parkin, the report’s main author and an epidemiologist at Queen Mary University of London. “Looking at all the evidence it’s clear that around 40% of all cancers are caused by things we mostly have the power to change.”

This new study of the link between cancer and lifestyle is one of the most comprehensive to date. Undertaking these lifestyle changes could also have a positive impact on other major diseases such as heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

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