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‘Blueprint to beat cancer’ launched today

Worldwide research review project underpins latest, evidence-based Cancer Prevention Recommendations

Lifestyles featuring little exercise and lots of fast and processed food are fuelling overweight and obesity, resulting in dramatic increases in cancer rates worldwide, according to a new report published today from World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF), leading authority on the links between diet, weight, physical activity and cancer prevention and survival.

The new report – Diet, Nutrition, Physical Activity and Cancer: a Global Perspective – is the result of an ongoing review of decades of evidence by world-renowned, independent experts from across the globe. It provides strengthened evidence for a comprehensive package of behaviours that, when followed together, represent the most reliable blueprint available for living healthily to reduce cancer risk: WCRF announces today its ten, updated Cancer Prevention Recommendations.

Vanessa Hebditch, Director of Communications and Policy at the Trust, welcomed the findings in the new report. Commenting she said “In the UK there are around 15 people diagnosed with primary liver cancer each day. It is often diagnosed late with very few treatment options and unfortunately the outcomes once diagnosed are poor. This report highlights prevention – we need to work together to raise awareness of the importance of a healthy lifestyle and to create an environment that makes adopting these measures much easier for us all.”

Around one in six deaths annually worldwide are due to cancer. In the UK in 2015, 359,734 cases of cancer were diagnosed. As more countries adopt ‘Western’ lifestyles, the number of new cases of cancer is expected to rise by 58% to 24 million globally per year by 2035. Further, as WCRF’s latest report indicates, the quality of diet and levels of activity of most people living in wealthy societies do not encourage healthy ageing, so further impact on cancer rates is anticipated as populations age worldwide.

Key findings from Diet, Nutrition, Physical Activity and Cancer: a Global Perspective include:

  •  How WCRF’s latest Cancer Prevention Recommendations provide a proven blueprint for beating cancer, if followed collectively and across your lifetime, because they are informed by the most reliable scientific evidence available globally.
  • Overweight and obesity increase cancer risk. WCRF’s latest findings show that being overweight or obese is a cause of at least 12 cancers**, five more than WCRF findings a decade ago. [**Liver, ovary, prostate (advanced), stomach (cardia), mouth and throat (mouth, pharynx and larynx) join bowel (colorectum), breast (post-menopause), gallbladder, kidney, oesophagus (oesophageal adenocarcinoma), pancreas and womb (endometrium).]
  • Regularly drinking sugar-sweetened drinks increases your cancer risk, because it causes weight gain, overweight and obesity.
  • Being physically active can help protect directly from three cancers [bowel (colon), breast (post-menopause) and womb (endometrium)], and also helps people maintain a healthy weight, reducing further their cancer risk.
  • A healthy diet featuring wholegrains, vegetables, fruit and pulses and low in red and processed meat reduces your cancer risk.
  • Drinking alcohol is strongly linked to an increased risk of six cancers**. This is one more (stomach cancer) than WCRF findings a decade ago. [**Bowel (colorectum), breast (both pre- and post-menopause), liver, mouth and throat (pharynx and larynx), oesophagus (squamous cell carcinoma) and stomach.]

Dr Kate Allen,WCRF’s Executive Director of Science & Public Affairs, said: “Our research shows it’s unlikely that specific foods or nutrients are important single factors in causing or protecting against cancer. Rather, different patterns of diet and physical activity throughout life combine to make you more or less susceptible to cancer. Our Cancer Prevention Recommendations work together as a blueprint to beat cancer that people can trust, because they are based on evidence that has now proved consistent for decades.

  • WCRF’s latest Cancer Prevention Recommendations are listed in full online at: wcrf-uk.org/10ways
    • They now include separate recommendations to limit consumption of fast/processed foods, and sugar-sweetened drinks.
  • An executive summary of Diet, Nutrition, Physical Activity and Cancer: a Global Perspective is available upon request.

WCRF is committed to giving people the most up-to-date and authoritative information about cancer prevention and survival, enabling them to make healthy lifestyle choices in their daily lives to reduce their cancer risk. So WCRF is also today launching a brand new, online Cancer Health Check tool. By answering some simple questions about their lifestyle, people can see which areas they are doing well in, and which areas they could make changes in, to reduce their cancer risk.

However, cancer prevention depends not only on individual choices but also on governments creating an environment that encourages lifelong healthy eating and a physically active lifestyle. WCRF today calls on governments to prioritise cancer prevention through the development and implementation of effective policies to address the rising burden of cancer in the UK and worldwide. WCRF representatives are currently at the 71st World Health Assembly in Geneva (21-26 May), reinforcing this message.

Meanwhile, leading researchers, scientists, policymakers and other opinion-formers in the field will gather at the Royal Society in central London on 24 May to hear key findings from the new WCRF report, and its latest Cancer Prevention Recommendations. They will debate their implications for future cancer research directions, how to translate them into public health and policy action, and the implications for cancer survivorship.

Dr Giota Mitrou, WCRF’s Director of Research Funding and External Relations, today (24 May) also chairs a session presenting the findings of Diet, Nutrition, Physical Activity and Cancer: a Global Perspective at ECO 2018, the 25th European Congress on Obesity, in Vienna. NB: there will be an embargoed press conference at ECO 2018 on 23 May.

Caroline Cerny, Alliance Lead, Obesity Health Alliance (a coalition of more than 40 leading health charities, medical royal colleges and campaign groups) said: “As this report shows, carrying excess weight can increase the risk of cancer. It is also linked to other health conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, heart and liver disease plus mental health problems. But with 1/3 children overweight or obese by the age of 11, it’s not as simple as telling people to eat less. It’s clear we need an environment that supports and encourages healthy choices, rather than steering us towards unhealthy options with constant adverts, promotions and offers. The Government now has an opportunity to step up and publish a truly world leading obesity plan with strong measures to curb the influence of junk food marketing.”

Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, Chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance UK (AHA), said: “We welcome the findings of this new World Cancer Research Fund report with its increased evidence around the link between alcohol and cancer. In addition, it is clear from the evidence in the report that drinking alcohol cannot be justified for other health reasons - to prevent heart disease, for example. We hope that this new authoritative report will influence decision-makers to take positive action to address the damage caused by alcohol misuse.”

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