20,000 breast cancer cases could be prevented annually

There were approximately 47,600 new cases of breast cancer in the UK in 2008, the most recent year for available figures. WCRF estimates about 42 per cent of these – roughly 20,000 cases – could have been prevented through healthier lifestyle choices.

The figures, which were released to mark WCRF’s Cancer Prevention Week, have led the charity to call on women to make the lifestyle changes necessary to cut their breast cancer risk.

Dr Rachel Thompson, Deputy Head of Science at WCRF, said: “These figures show that we still have a long way to go to raise awareness about what women can do to prevent breast cancer.

“It is very worrying that in the UK there are still tens of thousands of cases of breast cancer which could be prevented every year. Breast cancer can be prevented by cutting down on drinking, being more physically active and carrying less body fat.

“There is convincing evidence that alcohol consumption increases the risk of breast cancer. In postmenopausal women there is convincing evidence that body fatness also increases risk and there is evidence that regular physical activity probably reduces the risk of breast cancer.”

She added: “What these figures show is that people can do a lot to reduce their chances of developing cancer and following WCRF’s 10 Recommendations for Cancer Prevention will make a real difference. Overall, we estimate about a third of the most common cancers could be prevented through a healthy diet, being physically active and maintaining a healthy weight.”

WCRF recommends being as lean as possible without becoming underweight; be physically active for at least 30 minutes a day; limit alcoholic drinks, if consumed at all, to two a day for men and one a day for women.


Notes to editors:

  • There were 47,635 new cases of breast cancer in 2008. WCRF estimates 42 per cent of breast cancer cases in the UK are preventable, resulting in around 20,000 preventable breast cancer cases for the year.
  • The preventability estimates come from Preventability of Cancer by Food, Nutrition, and Physical Activity, a paper published in WCRF report Policy and Action for Cancer Prevention.
  • In this case, a healthy weight is defined as a Body Mass Index of 21 or below. WCRF recommends people aim to be as lean as possible without becoming underweight, with the healthy range defined as a BMI of between 18.5 and 25.

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