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   Jun 20

Sharp rise in cancers caused by lifestyle: Alcohol, obesity and legacy of sunshine holidays are to blame, warn experts


Obesity, smoking and holidays in the sun fuelling sharp rise in cancers

Instances of liver, mouth, womb, kidney and skin cancer rocketed since 2003

Men diagnosed with liver cancer rose by 70% and women 60% in 2002-13

Skin cancer up 61%, mouth up 48%, womb 31% and kidney 46%

Drinking, smoking, obesity and the legacy of holidays in the sun are fuelling a sharp rise in cancers.

Unhealthy lifestyle choices have led to rocketing instances of the disease striking the liver, mouth, womb, kidney and skin since 2003, figures show.

Liver cancer has shown the biggest increase – leaping by 66 per cent – while skin cancer increased by 61 per cent. Cancers of the mouth rose by 48 per cent, womb cancer by 31 per cent and kidney cancer by 46 per cent.

Sharp increase: Drinking, smoking, obesity and the legacy of holidays in the sun are fuelling a sharp rise in cancers – graphic showing the increase in the disease due to poor lifestyle since 1995

Experts say each of those forms of the disease can be linked to obesity, smoking or alcohol – and are now warning that the stark increases should serve as a wake-up call for the public to make lifestyle changes and take precaution in the sun.

Figures released by the Office for National Statistics for the period 2003 to 2012 show that the rates of all forms of the disease have increased by 27 per cent – partly due to the UK’s ageing population.

But it is also being blamed on poor lifestyles. And stark regional variations show that people in the North are 10 per cent more likely to get the illness than those in the South.

Professor John Newton, of Public Health England, the Government body responsible for health protection and improvement, said: ‘The recent increases in liver and melanoma cancers are of particular concern, as are the regional differences.

‘This shows how unhealthy behaviours can lead directly to increased rates of cancer.’

Nicola Smith, health information officer at Cancer Research UK said: ‘This sharp increase in liver cancer is extremely worrying, but it’s still a relatively uncommon cancer and there are clear lifestyle changes people can make to lower their risk.

‘Cutting down on alcohol and not smoking can lower your risk, as can taking precautions against hepatitis C infection like not sharing needles and practising safe sex.’

Warning: Experts say each of the five disease forms can be linked to obesity, smoking or alcohol

She added: ‘The explosion in package holidays to hot European beaches dating from the late 60s is probably part of the reason malignant melanoma rates continue to go up as the disease can take decades to develop.

‘Unfortunately the desire for a suntan – often the result of damaging sunburn – has left a legacy that’s still with us today.’

Data for liver cancer show that rates for men rose by 70 per cent, and 60 per cent in women. There are now 2,478 cases of the disease in England and Wales every year.

Because it is usually diagnosed too late, only one in 20 will survive beyond five years.

The ONS also observed that the rates of mouth and throat cancers – linked to smoking and alcohol – had increased by 50 per cent in men and 46 per cent in women. There are now just over 6,600 cases a year, compared to 4,456 in 2003.

Womb cancer – which is triggered by smoking and obesity – also rose by 46 per cent and the illness now affects about 7,000 women annually. The figures also showed a sharp rise in the rates of malignant melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, of 78 per cent in men and 48 per cent in women.

Cutting down: The sharp increase in liver cancer is particularly worrying, experts say, but drinking less alcohol can lower risk of getting the disease, medics say

Researchers say this is the legacy of the 1960s package holiday boom, when many of those who are now being diagnosed were going abroad for the first time.

Tragically, a lack of awareness about the dangers of UV rays meant that many travellers allowed themselves to get sunburnt in the hope of returning with a healthy tan.

Statistically, one in three people will get cancer at some point in their life but experts say the risks can be drastically reduced by taking simple steps to alter lifestyles.

John Newland, senior information nurse at the charity Macmillan Cancer Support, said: ‘We can reduce our risk significantly for certain cancers by just changing our lifestyle.

‘This includes keeping to a healthy weight, more exercise, keeping alcohol intake to recommended guidelines and not smoking.

‘Historically tobacco was one of the biggest causes but as this is now going down it is being replaced by obesity.

‘Obesity, for certain cancers, is a major risk factor but the good news is by losing weight people can reduce their chances.’

The report published by the ONS yesterday states: ‘Since 2003, there have been large increases in the number of registrations of liver, oral, uterine [womb] and kidney cancers, and malignant melanoma of the skin.

‘These cancers are strongly linked to lifestyle choices, such as smoking, alcohol consumption and obesity.’

Breast cancer remains by far the most common form of the illness in women and rates have increased by 12 per cent since 2003. There is growing evidence that obesity, alcohol and smoking all raise the risk of developing the disease. In men, prostate cancer is the commonest type with rates going up by 28 per cent, largely due to improved diagnosis.

An NHS England spokesman said: ‘We recognise the increasing burden cancer is having on our population. The vital thing is that patients are able to access treatment quickly and easily so they have the best possible chance of recovery.

‘A key part of this is helping people understand the possible signs to ensure they get the necessary tests early so treatment can be started sooner.’

Professor Martin Wiseman, an adviser to the World Cancer Research Fund has previously estimated that around 80,000 cancer cases a year could be prevented in Britain if people ate better, kept to a healthy weight and exercised more.


Source: Daily Mail

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