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 according to new research.

About a third of cancer cases in the UK could be prevented if people ate healthily, exercised more and cut down on alcohol according to new research.Exercise is an important way of keeping fit and cutting body fat, which is linked to the risk of developing cancer

Data 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.”

People aged 65 to 79 are happiest of all

Sixty five to 79 is the happiest age group for adults, according to Office for National Statistics research.

Sixty five to 79 is the happiest age group for adults, according to Office for National Statistics research.The survey of more than 300,000 adults across the UK found life satisfaction, happiness and feeling life was worthwhile all peaked in that age bracket, but declined in the over 80s.

Those aged 45 to 59 reported the lowest levels of life satisfaction, with men on average less satisfied than women. That age group also reported the highest levels of anxiety.

Researchers said one possible reason for the lower happiness and well-being scores among this age group might be the burden of having to care for children and elderly parents at the same time.

The struggle to balance work and family commitments might also be a factor, they said.

Meanwhile, those who were younger or retired had more free time to spend on activities which promoted their well being, the researchers suggested.

Happiness and well-being dropped off again in those over 80, however, with researchers suggesting this could be down to personal circumstances such as poor health, living alone and feelings of loneliness.

The survey asked people to rate out of 10 how happy and how anxious they had felt the day before, how satisfied they were with their life generally, and how much they felt what they did in life was worthwhile.

The published results have been broken down by age, ethnicity, religion, marital status, employment status, religion, and where in the country people live.

They suggested:

  • Married people had the highest levels of happiness, averaging 7.67 out of 10, higher than co-habiting, single, widowed or divorced people
  • People with jobs were happier than unemployed people, with part-time workers the happiest. Of those are were not working, retirees had the highest levels of happiness, followed by students
  • Of those who followed a religion, Hindus were marginally the happiest on average, followed by Christians and Sikhs, while those who followed no religion were the least happy
  • Women on average reported higher levels of anxiety than men, but were more likely report better well being and feel their life was worthwhile
  • People of Arab ethnicity were found to be the most anxious ethnic group, with people of Chinese ethnicity the least anxious
  • Northern Ireland held on to the crown for happiest of the UK’s nations, with people there also most satisfied and most likely to say their life was worthwhile – but also the most anxious; the least happy people were in England, with the North East the unhappiest region

Researchers found a strong link between health and well-being.

People who said their health was very good reported an average life satisfaction rating of 8.01 out of 10, compared with people who said they were in very bad health, whose average rating was just 4.91.