Thousands of cancer cases could be prevented every year with simple lifestyle changes, the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) has said.
The charity funded new research that looked at the impact of diet, exercise and lifestyle habits on colorectal cancer (a type of bowel cancer that begins in the colon or the rectum). It found 67% of UK colorectal cancer cases in men and 60% of colorectal cancer cases in women are preventable with lifestyle factors.
The researchers also estimated that lifestyle factors are responsible for 27% of breast cancer cases in women.
The study examined data from the Health Surveys of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland as well as from two other ongoing studies, including the UK Biobank database.
The study concluded that people could reduce their cancer risk by:
1. Increasing fibre in your diet
The WCRF said insufficient intake of dietary fibre is the highest lifestyle risk factor for colorectal cancer cases. The charity has estimated that more than 12,000 cases could be prevented in the UK each year if this was addressed.
In order to reap the benefits, it’s recommended adults eat 30g of fibre per day. Foods like cereal, granary bread and nuts contain a lot of fibre – find out more here.
2. Cutting processed meat consumption
Processed meat consumption has been linked to more than 5,000 cancer cases in the UK every year, WCRF said.
Recent research also found regular meat consumption is linked with a higher risk of various diseases, including heart disease, pneumonia and diabetes.
3. Cutting down on alcohol
The charity said alcohol consumption is the highest risk factor for breast cancer among women – with drinking linked to an estimated 4,487 cases each year.
4. Ditching sugary drinks
Having a high BMI was found to be another significant risk factor for breast cancer. Although sugary drinks haven’t been directly linked to cancer, they are a common contributor to weight gain.
“If you regularly drink sugary drinks, or drink them in large portions you are more likely to be consuming more calories than you burn,” WCRF says on its website.
5. Upping your exercise
Having a low level of physical activity was associated with a higher breast cancer risk. Inactivity has also previously been linked to higher levels of bowel and womb cancer. Our guide on taking your first steps into exercise might help you get moving.
“These new UK figures give a clear indication of the simple lifestyle changes we can all make to decrease our likelihood of a cancer diagnosis,” Rachael Gormley, chief executive of World Cancer Research Fund UK, said.
“With the coronavirus pandemic continuing to have an impact on people’s outcomes and experience of cancer care, knowing how to reduce your risk has never been more vital.”