Healthier lifestyles could prevent 100 cases of cancer per day

February 2, 2015

In the lead up to World Cancer Day on Wednesday, a visiting medical epidemiologist estimates at least a third of all cancers in Australia could be prevented if we adopted healthier lifestyles. 

Professor David Whiteman from the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute in Brisbane said this would translate into about 37,000 fewer people per year or 100 people less per day being diagnosed with cancer.

Professor Whiteman, who will deliver a free public lecture in Perth today as part of the Cancer Council Update series, strongly backs the theme of World Cancer Day this year that ‘Cancer is not beyond us’.

“If you consciously adopt a lifestyle that is measured and responsible, you can take control of your cancer risk and you can certainly reduce your risk,” Professor Whiteman said.

He said while some cancer will be caused by bad luck, it is far more important to focus on the many things we are all exposed to on a daily basis that do cause cancer such as smoking, sun exposure, being overweight, poor diet, drinking alcohol and insufficient physical activity.

“Research studies around the country are producing more evidence about how lifestyle factors impact on cancer risk, for example the benefits of stopping smoking are becoming clearer as more big studies report their findings,” he said.
 
“The area of overweight and obesity is an important focus of research right now because overweight and obese people are known to be at a higher risk of contracting around 15-20 different kinds of cancer.”

Research was particularly focused on whether the risks were reversible if you lose weight and how dietary changes affect cancer risk.

In his Cancer Update presentation, Professor Whiteman will discuss how cancers are caused and what steps people can take to reduce their risks of developing cancer.

Terry Slevin, Cancer Council WA Director of Education and Research, said the World Cancer Day message was an opportunity to remember the upside to cancer prevention.

“The fact is we already have runs on the board from our work in cancer prevention which are not only saving lives but saving significant dollars from the public health budget,” he said.
                                               
Mr Slevin said results from cancer prevention measures include;
•    a clear reduction in smoking rates;
•    the beginning of a reduction in skin cancer rates;
•    the introduction of bowel cancer screening will save 35,000 lives in 40 years (with the potential to save thousands more as participation rates increase) and,
•    the prospect of cervical cancer being eradicated in the next 30-40 years with the introduction of the HPV vaccine. 

“The benefits of cancer prevention are real and proving every day that cancer is not beyond us,” said Mr Slevin.


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