Healthy lifestyle could prevent large proportion of cancers, says landmark report

Healthy lifestyle could prevent large proportion of cancers, says landmark report


Research shows that over 40 percent of colon and breast cancer cases are preventable through healthy diet, physical activity and weight maintenance %0A "

By Laura Gallagher
Thursday 26 February 2009

Over 40 per cent of colon and breast cancer cases in some countries are preventable through healthy patterns of diet, physical activity and weight maintenance, according to estimates in a landmark report that has set out recommendations for policies and actions to reduce the global number of cancer cases.

The report, Policy and Action for Cancer Prevention, published today by World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) and American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), has estimated that about 43 per cent of colon cancer cases and 42 per cent of breast cancer cases in the UK could be prevented in this way. The report also finds that across the world many cases of other cancers, such as those of the kidney and stomach, are preventable.

The overall message of the report is that all sections of society should make public health, and cancer prevention in particular, a higher priority.

The overall estimate is that about a third of the most common cancers in high-income countries and a quarter in lower-income countries could be prevented. These figures do not include smoking, which alone accounts for about a third of cancers.

Professor Elio Riboli , Head of the Division of Epidemiology, Public Health and Primary Care at Imperial College London, was one of the authors of the report. He said: "Our work shows that many of us could dramatically reduce our risk of developing cancer by taking simple steps to improve what we’re eating and how we’re living our lives. It is great news that as many as 30 percent of cancer cases can be prevented. However, we know that not everyone will feel able to change their lifestyle overnight, or have access to safe biking corridors, walkable streets and sports facilities, or know what kinds of food they should be eating."

"Our report provides recommendations for all kinds of governmental and social organisations about measures they can take to help people improve their health. By working together, we will be able to put up a much better fight against a disease that claims far too many lives," he added.

Professor Riboli leads a new Interventional Public Health Clinical Programme Group at the UK’s first Academic Health Science Centre (AHSC). The AHSC is a unique partnership between Imperial College London and Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, which aims to ensure that the benefits of research reach patients more quickly than ever before. Professor Riboli’s Interventional Public Health group will find new ways of improving people’s health in order to prevent them developing a range of conditions.

Expert recommendations

As part of the evidence-based report, thought to be the most comprehensive ever published on the subject, two independent teams of scientists systematically looked at the evidence for how policy changes and interventions influence the behaviours that affect cancer risk.

Following this, a panel of 23 world-renowned experts including Professor Riboli made 48 recommendations spread across different groups in society to follow, including government, industry, the media, schools, workplaces and health professionals. The recommendations include:

* Schools should actively encourage physical activity and provide healthy food for children.
* Schools, workplaces and institutions should not have unhealthy foods available in vending machines.
* Governments should require widespread walking and cycling routes to encourage physical activity.
* Governments should incorporate UN recommendations on breastfeeding into law.
* The food and drinks industry should make public health an explicit priority at all stages of production.
* Industry should give a higher priority for goods and services that encourage people to be active, particularly young people.
* Health professi onals should take a lead in giving the public information about public health, including cancer prevention.
* People should use independent nutrition guides and food labels to make sure the food they buy for their family is healthy.

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