Cancer cases preventable by lifestyle changes

08 February, 2011

On World Cancer Day, new independent evidence confirms that the increasing global trend of unhealthy and sedentary lifestyles is responsible for putting millions at an unnecessarily high risk of cancer.

New estimates released today by the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) global network suggest that across a range of countries, making lifestyle changes including maintaining a healthy weight, eating a healthy diet and taking regular physical activity can reduce the risk of common cancers by up to a third.

These findings are further supported by the World Health Organization’s (WHO) new Global Recommendations on Physical Activity for Health. This landmark report reinforces that regular physical activity has the potential to prevent many diseases such as breast and colon cancers, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.

The report addresses three age groups (5-17 years old, 18-64 years old, and 65 years old and above) and provides concrete recommendations for levels of physical activity needed for health. These recommendations are especially helpful for low- and middle-income countries, where few national guidelines for physical activity exist.

"Physical activity is recommended for people of all ages as a means to reduce risks for certain types of cancers and other non-communicable diseases," says Dr Tim Armstrong, from WHO's Department of Chronic Diseases and Health Promotion.

In order to improve their health and prevent several diseases, adults should do at least 150 minutes moderate physical activity throughout the week. This can be achieved by simply walking 30 minutes five times per week or by cycling to work daily".

There is also consistent evidence that other healthy living initiatives are vital in reducing the risk of cancer including stopping tobacco use, avoiding exposure to passive smoke, avoiding excessive sun exposure and protecting against cancer-causing infections. 

And to help fight the global cancer epidemic, the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) is urging individuals to take action and support the World Cancer Declaration - at

Signing the Declaration will help UICC in its effort to motivate global leaders to set realistic and achievable directives for preventing cancer during the United Nations Summit for Non-Communicable Diseases in September 2011. There has only been one UN General Assembly special session focused on health since 1947. The announcement of the 2011 summit is an unprecedented step in the battle against cancer.

Dr Eduardo Cazap, President of UICC summarised, “Support World Cancer Day by signing the World Cancer Declaration and help us achieve the goal of one million supporters for a Cancer Free World.  With individuals, governments and policy makers of the world working together, we have the ability to ease the global burden of cancer now and for future generations.”

Source: The Union for International Cancer Control (UICC)