In the UK, nearly 40% of all cancer diagnosis cases every year could be avoided through lifestyle changes, according to new research. A study by the Cancer Research UK found that there were many avoidable causes of cancer.
Some of these include:
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- Carrying excess weight
- Overexposure to UV radiation - being in the sun too long and tanning
- Drinking alcohol
- Outdoor air pollution
- Eating too little fiber
Experts who presented this data have gone on to say that while cigarette smoking rates are declining, the obesity rates are increasing. This means that obesity could soon overtake smoking as the biggest killer.
Obesity Is the Killer
Obesity is simply having too much fat on your body. It's different from being overweight.
As you know, becoming obese comes from eating more calories than you burn - for a long time. Genetic makeup, overeating, eating highly-processed foods, and not being physically active are all factors that affect your weight.
We know that being obese isn't healthy, but there are a few life-threatening things that obesity can cause:
- Heart disease
Why You Should Get Started on Your Fitness Journey
Research shows that losing a dismal 5 to 10 percent of your weight can delay or prevent these diseases. So if you are a 300-pound person, losing 15 to 30 pounds will improve your life expectancy.
Fortunately, the first weight is easiest to lose. The healthy changes steamroll into many healthy habits which lead to a healthier you.
Is Obesity the New Smoking?
We know that being overweight, especially being obese, isn't healthy.
Chief executive of the Cancer Research UK Sir Harpal Kumar has been noted saying that "obesity is potentially the new smoking, if we're not careful." He's also been noted saying "my sense would be it'll be some time in the next couple of decades that we'll see those two switch around."
This is alarming, isn't it?
This landmark study shows that prevention is the best way of beating these killer diseases. The Government could be doing so much more to help people make healthier choices.
In some 2015 cancer data, 135,500 cases of cancer a year could have been prevented. This is about 37.7% of all cancers diagnosed in the UK every year. Scotland has risen to 41.5% of all cancers diagnosed as being preventable.
Smoking Is Still the Real Killer
While obesity is on the rise to being the most detrimental and preventable disease, smoking cigs are the biggest preventable cause of cancer. Smoking is responsible for around 32,200 cases of cancer in men (around 17.7% of all male cancer cases) and about 22,000 women (12.4%).
Obesity comes in with about 22,800 cases from being overweight or obese. This is about 6.3% of all cases.
Dr. Katrina Brown is the statistical information and risk manager of Cancer Research UK said that the public does not understand the risks of smoking until relatively recently. She hopes that the same risk information will be widely available for being obese.
"We definitely need to change attitudes towards obesity. We have a responsibility to communicate evidence about risk," says Brown. The shift in cultural norms and acceptability have made being large increasingly normal.
Brown goes on to say that "we need to not only convey the message about the health risks, but also that our population is getting larger." Sir Harpal acknowledges that people are becoming increasingly aware of the dangers of being overweight, but "how quickly that translates into actual changes is much less predictable."
Harpal says that it can take 10 to 20 years for cancers relating to such risk factors to occur, but any improvements will take a similar amount of time to become apparent.
Statistics on Other Preventable Cases
While genetics and other factors play a huge role in cancer, aside from smoking and being obese, there are a few other heavy-hitters causing cancer that could be avoidable.
Data shows that the third biggest preventable cause of cancer is overexposure to UV radiation from the sun and tanning beds.
Melanoma skin cancer causes around 13,600 cases a year. This equates to about 3.8% of all cancer cases. This means that the people who tan until they look like a football are increasing their chance of cancer every time they go tan.
Drinking alcohol causes around 11,900 cases, while eating too little fiber in your diet is responsible for around 11,700.
It's amazing how overindulging or under-indulging can both cause cancer. Balance is key.
While not entirely preventable, air pollution is to blame for around 3,600 lung cancer cases a year.
Other risks include occupational exposures to dangerous chemicals (mostly asbestos), infections, eating processed meat, and not getting enough physical activity top the chart.
Wrapping It Up
Harpal adds that "leading a healthy life doesn't guarantee that a person won't get cancer, but it can stack the odds in your favor." Prevention is the most cost-effective way of beating cancer, and the Government could do much more to help people make the healthy choice the easy choice.
While the number of people who smoke cigarettes is going down, obesity is a huge health threat that will only get worse if nothing is done. The success of smoking prevention needs to be built upon and applied to reducing the amount of weight-related cancers.
Things like banning junk food TV advertisements before 9 pm should help keep these companies advertising directly to our youth.
The research is out there, taking too long to start living a healthy life could mean grave consequences.
What are you going to do about it?