Posted August 10, 2007
RECORD numbers of people are developing “avoidable cancers” because of their lifestyle, despite warnings.
Figures released Thursday show soaring levels of cancers caused by excessive sunbathing, obesity, alcohol and smoking.
Cancer Research UK said rates of melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer, had risen by more than 40 per cent in the past decade, making it the fastest rising cancer in the UK.
The charity warned that some of the cancers could be avoided with simple lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking, eating a balanced diet and taking regular exercise.
The figures – published by Cancer Research UK and the UK Association of Cancer Registries – revealed that although rates of malignant melanoma were highest in women and had doubled since the mid-1980s, rates had tripled in men during the same period. Heavy sun exposure accounted for the majority of cases.
The latest figures show almost 9,000 cases of malignant melanoma were diagnosed in 2004 – up from fewer than 6,000 in 1995.
Experts blame the rise in cheap flights to the sun for increased melanoma rates. Only weeks ago, a report claimed women who stayed out of the sun increased their risk of developing breast cancer because they lacked vitamin D, which comes from sunlight. Critics said the study was misleading and that the risks of sunbathing outweighed the benefits.
Doctors now believe around half of all cancers could be prevented by lifestyle changes.
Sara Hiom, Cancer Research UK’s director of health information, said it was vital patients reported any unusual symptoms to their GP and attended regular screening clinics.
“We’re concerned that cases of malignant melanoma are spiralling. Exposure to UV radiation in sunlight is the main cause of skin cancer,” she said.
“Most cases of this disease could be prevented if people protected themselves in the sun and took care not to burn.”
It was also revealed that mouth cancer rates had increased by almost a quarter over the past decade. There were almost 5,000 new cases in 2004, up from almost 3,700 ten years before. Research suggests most cases occur in people who smoke or chew tobacco and regularly drink alcohol.
Health experts said yesterday it was crucial to raise awareness of warning signs, as early detection made treatment easier and raised the chance of recovery.
Over the past ten years, womb cancer rates have increased by more than 20 per cent. It is unclear exactly what causes the disease, but some factors are known to increase risk. Overweight and obese women are twice as likely to develop cancer of the uterus as women of a healthy weight.
Rates of kidney cancer have increased by more than 10 per cent over the past decade, with smoking and obesity two of the major risk factors. Scientists believe smoking doubles the risk of kidney cancer, but suggest the risk of developing the illness falls when people quit.
Leading cancer specialist Professor Karol Sikora said people knew the risks of drinking alcohol and sunbathing but refused to take them seriously. He said: “Everyone knows that there are lifestyle risks to cancer, and they ask what they can do to change it. But instead of changing to a healthy lifestyle they go on cranky diets. This shows a need to change habits.”
Lucy Morrish, statistical information manager at Cancer Research UK, who compiled the figures, said: “While rates for some cancers have fallen over the past decade, others are rising and many of these cases could be prevented if people avoided excessive sun exposure, smoking and obesity and limited their alcohol intake.
“Our Reduce the Risk campaign encourages people to learn how they can lead healthier lives and cut their risk of developing cancer.”
Research shows that rates of cervical cancers are falling as a result of the national screening programme, and, thanks to successful “quit smoking” campaigns, lung cancer rates are continuing to decrease, especially among men.
SCOURGE FROM THE SUN
RATES of melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer, have jumped by 40 per cent in a decade.
Sun exposure is the main and most preventable risk. The sun gives off UV (ultraviolet) rays which can cause skin damagewhich can eventually lead to skin cancer. Research suggests people who have had sunburn or intense sun exposure in childhood are at an increased risk of developing melanoma. Dermatologists say it is important to protect children’s skin from the sun.
Melanoma accounts for almost 3 per cent of all newly diagnosed cancers.
DRINK AND TOBACCO TAKE TOLL
ALMOST 4,700 cases of mouth cancer are diagnosed in the UK each year, with 630 people diagnosed in Scotland.
The disease causes more than 1,700 deaths every year, including 220 in Scotland.
The most important factors linked to mouth cancer are tobacco use and excessive consumption of alcohol.
In developed countries like the UK, the risk of oral cancer linked to smoking and alcohol is estimated to be more than 80 per cent.
A lack of key vitamins in the diet, such as vitamin C, is also linked to the disease.
KIDNEY TUMOR SMOKING LINK
ALMOST 6,700 people are diagnosed with kidney cancer each year in the UK, including more than 600 cases in Scotland.
Around 3,600 deaths are linked to the disease including 360 in Scotland.
The major risk factors for kidney cancer include obesity and smoking.
About 25 per cent of cases in men and 24 per cent in women in Europe are linked to being overweight.
Smoking can increase the risk of kidney cancer by up to three- fold.
Approximately 24 per cent of cases in men and 9 per cent in women can be attributed to smoking.
WEIGHT AFFECTS WOMB DISEASE
MORE than 6,400 cases of cancer of the uterus, or womb, are diagnosed in the UK each year, including 500 in Scotland.
The disease causes around 1,650 deaths in the UK each year – more than 130 of them in Scotland.
Evidence suggests that the risk of womb cancer is two to three times higher in the overweight and obese.
It is estimated that around 36 per cent of cases of the cancer in the UK are caused by excess bodyweight.
It is thought a diet rich in foods such as soya, dried fruit and whole grains could reduce womb cancer risks.