Healthier lifestyles could cut cancer cases by a third

About a third of cancer cases in the UK could be prevented if people ate healthily, exercised more and cut down on alcohol, figures indicate.

About a third of cancer cases in the UK could be prevented if people ate healthily, exercised more and cut down on alcoholData from the World Cancer Research Fund suggests that 20,000 cases of breast cancer and about 19,000 cases of bowel cancer could be stopped each year with small changes in lifestyle.

In 2013, there were more than 351,000 new cases of cancer in the UK. The WCRF said 84,000 could have been prevented.

Head of research Dr Rachel Thompson said simple changes to diet and lifestyle could make “a huge difference” in the battle against cancer.

“Even minor adjustments, like 10 to 15 extra minutes of physical activity each day, cutting down on alcohol, or limiting your intake of high calorie foods and sugary drinks, will help decrease your cancer risk,” she said.

She said that after cutting out smoking, being a healthy body weight was the most important thing people could do to cut their risk of getting cancer.

“There is strong evidence that being overweight or obese increases the risk of 10 cancers,” she said.

The link between a healthy lifestyle and the risk of developing cancer is well known, and this new data looks at preventable cases in 13 of the UK’s most common cancers.

For example, among men, 9% of cases of advanced prostate cancer could be prevented every year if men were not overweight or obese.

Lung cancer cases could be cut by 15,000 (33%) by getting people to stop smoking.

And 38% of breast cancer cases could be prevented, particularly in postmenopausal women, by increasing physical exercise and reducing body fat.

The WCRF also said that 2,200 cases of kidney cancer and 1,400 cases of pancreatic cancer could be prevented if people adopted a healthier lifestyle.

Prof Kevin Fenton, director of health and wellbeing at Public Health England, said the UK was currently behind on cancer survival rates compared with other European countries.

He said one major factor was that cancer prevention was not in the public consciousness.

“The link between tobacco and cancer is widely known and readily accepted by the public, but many are not yet fully convinced that healthy eating, regular exercise and not drinking alcohol, can lower your cancer risk.”

Drinking water doesn’t prevent a hangover, study says

Drinking glasses of water after a night of heavy drinking won’t improve your hangover the next day, Dutch research suggests.

Drinking glasses of water after a night of heavy drinking won't improve your hangover the next dayInstead, a study concluded, the only way to prevent a hangover is to drink less alcohol.

More than 800 students were asked how they tried to relieve hangover symptoms, but neither food nor water was found to have any positive effect.

The findings are being presented at a conference in Amsterdam.

A team of international researchers from the Netherlands and Canada surveyed students’ drinking habits to find out whether hangovers could be eased or if some people were immune to them.

Among 826 Dutch students, 54% ate food after drinking alcohol, including fatty food and heavy breakfasts, in the hope of staving off a hangover.

With the same aim, more than two thirds drank water while drinking alcohol and more than half drank water before going to bed.

Although these groups showed a slight improvement in how they felt compared with those who hadn’t drunk water, there was no real difference in the severity of their hangovers.

Previous research suggests that about 25% of drinkers claim that they never to get hangovers.

So the researchers questioned 789 Canadian students about their drinking in the previous month and the hangovers they experienced, finding that those who didn’t get a hangover simply consumed “too little alcohol to develop a hangover in the first place”.

Of those students who drank heavily, with an estimated blood alcohol concentration of more than 0.2%, almost no-one was immune to hangovers.

According to lead author Dr Joris Verster, from Utrecht University, the relationship was pretty straightforward.

“The more you drink, the more likely you are to get a hangover.”

“Drinking water may help against thirst and a dry mouth, but it will not take away the misery, the headache and the nausea.”

Dr Verster said part of the problem was that scientists still do not know what causes a hangover.

“Research has concluded that it’s not simply dehydration – we know the immune system is involved, but before we know what causes it, it’s very unlikely we’ll find an effective cure.”

He said the next step was to carry out more controlled trials on hangovers.

Dr Michael Bloomfield, from University College, London, said the economic costs of alcohol abuse ran into hundreds of billions of euros every year.

“It’s therefore very important to answer simple questions like, ‘How do you avoid a hangover?  Whilst further research is needed, this new research tells us that the answer is simple – drink less.”

The paper is presented at the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology conference.