UK women face greater cancer risk

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Indy Lifestyle Online

British women are 17% more likely to develop cancer than those in Europe - and obesity and alcohol could be partly to blame, experts say.





Analysis of data from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) shows women in the UK have a 25.1% chance of developing cancer by the age of 75.



For European women, the risk is 17% lower at 21.4%.



British women are also more likely to die from cancer before the age of 75 than their European counterparts, with 10.6% dying from the disease compared to 9.4% in Europe (a 13% difference).



However, the figures show some good news for British men compared to those in Europe.



European men on average have a 29.5% risk of developing cancer before the age of 75, but this drops to 27.8% in the UK (6% lower).



Men in the UK are also 6% less likely to die from the disease, with 13.3% dying compared to the European average of 16.2%.



The World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF), which examined the data, said many cancer cases could be prevented through healthy lifestyles.



Overall, it estimates 80,000 cases of cancer could be prevented each year if people kept to a healthy weight, were active, ate well and did not drink too much.



For women, 33% of cases of cancer of the oesophagus are linked to obesity, as are 19% of pancreatic cancer cases, 21% of gallbladder cases, 16% of breast cancers and 28% of cancers of the womb lining.



Dr Rachel Thompson, deputy head of science for the WCRF, said: "On average, women in the UK are more likely to be overweight and to drink more alcohol than the European average and this is a concern because both these factors increase cancer risk.



"They are not the only reasons for the differing cancer rates, but there is now very strong evidence that women who drink a lot of alcohol are at increased risk of developing the disease and that excess body fat is also an important risk factor.



"This is why one of the big public health challenges we face today is to reduce the amount of alcohol we drink as a nation and to get a grip on the obesity crisis before it spirals out of control.



"Together with other factors such as being physically active and eating a healthy plant-based diet without too much salt or red and processed meat, these changes could make a real difference to the number of women who develop cancer before the age of 75.



"Overall, we estimate about a third of the most common cancers could be prevented by eating healthily, being physically active and maintaining a healthy weight.



"And for breast cancer, which is the most common type of cancer, about four in 10 cases could be prevented through lifestyle changes.



"This means that everyone can make changes to their lifestyle today to reduce their risk of developing cancer in the future."



Ciaran Devane, chief executive of Macmillan Cancer Support said: "It is very worrying to see that British women are 17% more likely to develop cancer than women in Europe.



"Leading a healthy, active lifestyle and eating a diet of fresh fruit, vegetables and foods that are whole grain and also limiting alcohol intake may reduce the risk of getting cancer and cancer recurrence. However, it's important to remember that cancer can also be caused by many other factors such as age, lifestyle habits and genetic make up.



"The number of people who will get cancer is now well past one in three, and there are many more people with cancer today than there were 10 years ago. By making small adjustments to their diet and lifestyles both British men and women can go a long way to helping us tackle this ever growing issue."

PA

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