Bowel and breast cancer may be more “more preventable” than previously thought, a new study suggests.
Thousands of cancer cases could be prevented every year with simple lifestyle changes, the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) said.
Cases of bowel and breast cancer could be significant reduced with some diet changes, exercise and weight loss, the charity said.
It pointed to a new study which concluded that 67% of UK colorectal cancer cases in men and 60% of colorectal cancer cases in women are preventable due to lifestyle factors.
Researchers from the US estimated that lifestyle factors are responsible for 27% of breast cancer cases in women.
The study, funded by the WCRF and published on the AMRC open portal, examined people’s exposure to modifiable risk factors using 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.
A previous study on preventable cancer cases, published in the British Journal of Cancer in 2015, suggested that 57.2% of colorectal cancer in men and 50.9% of cases in women could be prevented with lifestyle changes.
And the past research suggested 23% of cases of breast cancer could be prevented.
The latest estimates suggest a significantly higher proportion of cases could potentially be prevented.
The WCRF said that insufficient intake of dietary fibre is the highest lifestyle risk factor for colorectal cancer cases and the charity has estimated that more than 12,000 cases could be prevented in the UK each year if this was addressed.
Meanwhile, processed meat consumption has been linked to more than 5,000 cases in the UK every year.
The charity said that alcohol consumption is the highest risk factor for breast cancer among women – with drinking linked to an estimated 4,487 cases each year.
Other significant risk factors for breast cancer include having a high body mass index and low levels of physical activity.
Rachael Gormley, chief executive of World Cancer Research Fund UK, said: “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.
“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.”