Fast food, alcohol and too much exposure to the sun contribute to around 400 preventable cancer cases a day in the UK, experts warn today.
They estimate that about 155,000 diagnoses could be prevented each year if Britons led healthier lifestyles.
Cutting back on red meat, avoiding processed meat and drinking less alcohol are among the recommendations from the World Cancer Research Fund to help reduce the risk of getting the illness.
Some 387,820 people were diagnosed with cancer in 2019/20, a rise of more than 20,000 in two years despite the Covid pandemic disrupting services.
Fast food, alcohol and too much exposure to the sun contribute to around 400 preventable cancer cases a day in the UK, experts warn today
Around four in ten of these cases could be prevented with better lifestyle choices, such as eating more healthily, not smoking and exercising more, the charity said.
Breast cancer was the most common type with 56,987 new diagnoses, closely followed by prostate cancer at 55,068.
Lung cancer remains the most deadly – killing 34,171 in 2019/20 – and the second-most prolific, with 48,754 new cases.
These figures are slightly down from 35,180 and 48,017 respectively. Cases of deadly skin cancer melanoma, which can be caused by over-exposure to the sun, rose from 16,183 to 17,845 over the two-year period.
Cases of deadly skin cancer melanoma, which can be caused by over-exposure to the sun, rose from 16,183 to 17,845 over the two-year period
Meanwhile there were 44,706 cases and 17,484 deaths from bowel cancer, which is increasingly linked to lifestyle factors.
Being overweight or obese is linked to a higher risk of 13 types of cancer including breast, womb, bowel, liver, kidney and pancreatic. Smoking is estimated to be responsible for 70 per cent of lung cancer cases, nearly one fifth of all new cancer cases a year.
But as around two-thirds of adults and a third of children are overweight or obese, experts warn that it is only a matter of time before this overtakes smoking as the leading cause of the disease.
The data suggests the number of preventable cases has risen by 8,000 since 2017/18.
Dr Vanessa Gordon-Dseagu, of the WCRF, which funds scientists around the world to examine ways of preventing cancer, said the growing ageing population will see numbers continue to rise over the next few decades.
Cutting back on red meat, avoiding processed meat and drinking less alcohol are among the recommendations from the World Cancer Research Fund to help reduce the risk of getting the illness
But she suggested the chances of contracting many cancers could be lowered by avoiding alcohol, eating no more than three portions of red meat a week and little, if any, processed meat.
Other measures include staying safe in the sun and mothers breastfeeding babies if possible.
‘Over the years, research has estimated that around 40 per cent of cancers are associated with modifiable risk factors,’ added Dr Gordon-Dseagu.
‘These include smoking and limiting sun exposure. Alongside this, research has shown that, by following WCRF’s cancer prevention recommendations, individuals can reduce their risk.
‘Screening plays a vital role in improving cancer outcomes – the earlier someone is diagnosed, the more likely they are to survive.’
The charity’s report comes after Cancer Research UK said ‘ending smoking’ would slash the number of deaths from the disease, which is linked to deprived areas.
A study published last week in the journal PLOS One found that if nobody in England smoked then such fatalities would drop from 27,200 to 16,500.