Ahead of a major scientific conference held by World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF), Professor Martin Wiseman, the charity’s Medical and Scientific Adviser, has said that the rise in lifestyle–related cancers is as big a challenge for the 21st Century as providing access to clean water was for the 19th Century.
While much of the expected rise in cancer rates is due to an ageing world population, another important reason is the rise of obesity and the shift away from plant-based diets and active lifestyles.
But the conference, whose speakers will include leading figures from the World Health Organization and the International Agency for Research on Cancer, will show the projected doubling of cancer rates is not inevitable.
As well as looking at the latest scientific research on cancer prevention, the conference will also focus on policy changes that can help prevent cancer.
Professor Wiseman said: “It is clear that the rising number of lifestyle-related cancers is one of the biggest challenges facing the world today. It is important we do not underestimate it.
“The challenge we face in preventing cancer is of the same scale as people faced in making drinking water freely available in the 19th Century in urban areas.
“We have seen over the last century that as countries have become more industrialised, people in those countries have become more overweight, less active and eaten more processed foods.
“But this does not have to happen. By making changes that make it easier for people to make healthy choices, and by giving people the information they need to make their own informed choices, we can avoid the typical path of developing the unhealthy behaviours that have promoted chronic diseases in the 20th and 21st centuries.
“It is important to remember it is largely because of our successes in preventing the spread of communicable disease that people are now living long enough for cancer to be affecting a significant proportion of the world’s population. This is because cancer is mostly a disease of old age.
“But unless we can stop the rising number of lifestyle-related cancers, this will mean that millions of people will die unnecessarily young.”
Notes to editors:
The WCRF conference is called at Nutrition, Physical Activity and Cancer Prevention: Current Challenges, New Horizons and will be held at the Royal College of Physicans in London tomorrow (Sunday) and on Monday.
Regular updates will be posted throughout the conference on the WCRF blog at http://blog.wcrf-uk.org
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