12:45pm Thursday 17 October 2019

Walking more could prevent 10,000 breast and bowel cancers

WCRF scientists have estimated that about 4,600 bowel cancer cases could be prevented simply if people in the UK did more brisk walking and other forms of moderate activity, which is activity that makes your heart beat a bit faster and makes you breathe more deeply. And about 5,500 breast cancer cases could be prevented in the same way.

Physical activity also reduces risk of endometrial cancer (cancer of the womb lining) and as well as preventing cancer in its own right, people who are regularly active are less likely to be overweight, which is an important cancer risk factor. This is why WCRF recommends being physically active for at least half an hour a day.

Dr Rachel Thompson, Deputy Head of Science for WCRF, said: “There is now very strong evidence that being physically active is important for cancer prevention. Even relatively modest increases in activity levels could prevent thousands of cancer cases in the UK every year.

“These figures also show you do not have to go to the gym every day to benefit. You can reduce your cancer risk just by making small changes and this is highlighted by the fact that so many cancer cases could be prevented through something as simple as brisk walking.

“By taking up walking as a hobby or even walking to the shops instead of taking the bus or car, people can make a real difference to their health.

“But while there is strong scientific evidence that being physically active is important for cancer prevention, just over a third of people are aware of the link. So there is still a lot of work to do in raising awareness.”

WCRF has launched its Walking Together campaign to raise awareness of the important role moderate physical activity, including walking, has for cancer prevention.

The campaign involves people supporting WCRF by organising walks with their family and friends. As well as raising funds to help WCRF continue its cancer prevention work, the campaign aims to encourage people to get into the kind of habits that can reduce their cancer risk.

Paul Fretwell, Head of Fundraising for WCRF, said: “We are trying to promote the fact that wherever you live in the UK, you are never that far away from somewhere nice to walk.

“As well as raising money, this campaign is promoting the importance of physical activity for cancer prevention and reminding people about how enjoyable walking can be.

“We hope that Walking Together encourages people to get into the habit of brisk walking, both as a hobby but also as part of their daily lives.”

People can find out more about the Walking Together campaign by calling 020 7343 4205 or emailing events@wcrf.org

Notes to editors:

  • The preventability estimates come from Preventability of Cancer by Food, Nutrition, and Physical Activity, a paper published in the World Cancer Research Fund report, Policy and Action for Cancer Prevention.
  • The preventability estimate for breast cancer is what would happen if all women were moderately physically active for at least 45 minutes a day.
  • The preventability estimate for bowel cancer is based on what would happen if everyone was physically active for at least 30 minutes for five days a week.
  • The report can be downloaded from www.dietandcancerreport.org
  • Moderate activity is anything that gets your heart beating a bit faster and makes you breathe more deeply – like brisk walking. There are plenty of easy ways to build this type of activity into your daily routine, so you don’t need to set aside half an hour each day to exercise. Shorter bouts of activity are just as beneficial as it’s the total time that’s important.

About WCRF

World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) raises awareness that cancer is largely preventable and helps people make choices to reduce their chances of developing the disease.

This includes research into how cancer risk is related to diet, physical activity, and weight management, and education programmes that highlight the fact that about a third of cancers could be prevented through changes to lifestyle. For more information on the charity’s work, visit www.wcrf-uk.org

The WCRF report, called Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Cancer: a Global Perspective, was launched in November 2007 and is the most comprehensive report ever published on the link between cancer and lifestyle. For more information, visit www.dietandcancerreport.org

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