It is estimated that in 2030 there will be 396,000 new cases of cancer in the UK, compared with 304,000 cases in 2008 – a 30 per cent increase.
World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) is announcing these figures to mark World Cancer Day and draw attention to the rising burden of cancer, while recognising that scientists estimate about a third of the most common cancers could be prevented through maintaining a healthy body weight, eating more healthily and being physically active.
In the ‘league table’ of 27 EU member states – calculated using World Health Organization (WHO) estimates for new cancer cases in 2030 – Ireland comes top and is predicted to see the greatest percentage increase with a shocking 72 per cent rise.
Ireland is followed by Cyprus (55 per cent), Luxembourg (53 per cent) and Malta (49 per cent).
These figures give a stark picture of how cancer will develop around the EU in the coming years unless decisive action is taken.
Like other long-standing EU members, Ireland and the UK have ageing populations where the incidence of cancer is higher, as cancer is primarily a disease of older people. Meanwhile, in Eastern Europe smaller projected rises in the population aged 65 or over helps explain why newer members of the EU dominate the bottom of the table.
In the case of Ireland the increase is also due to a projected growth in the total population.
These figures do not take other factors into account such as how well the disease is recorded, the use of screening programmes and changes in lifestyle habits.
Higher income countries tend to have higher levels of obesity and alcohol consumption and lower levels of physical activity – all of which are risk factors for developing cancer.
Dr Rachel Thompson, Deputy Head of Science at WCRF, said: “We know people in high-income countries such as those in Western Europe are more likely to be overweight, to drink a lot and to be relatively inactive.
“There is strong evidence that these factors increase the risk of several common cancers.
“But many of these new cases could be prevented and lifestyle changes can make a real difference. In fact, scientists estimate that about a third of the most common cancers in the UK and other high income countries could be prevented by maintaining a healthy weight, being more physically active and eating more healthily.
“Unfortunately, these figures are just as bad, if not worse, in non-European countries and the predicted increase in global cancer cases between 2008 and 2030 is 67 per cent – from 12.6 million to 21.2 million. This is due to an increase in the adult population as well as an ageing population.”
World Cancer Day seeks to focus attention on the global cancer epidemic through the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) and its members around the world. The WHO believes it is possible to reduce premature deaths from cancer and other non-communicable diseases (NCDs) by 25 per cent by 2025.
Marilyn Gentry, President of the WCRF global network, said: “World Cancer Day is important because it gives us the opportunity to raise people’s awareness about the ways they can change their lifestyles to reduce their risk of cancer.
“This is vital if we are to reach the target of reducing deaths from cancer and other NCDs by 25 per cent by 2025 – a goal that the World Health Organization believes is achievable.”
Dr Kate Allen, Science and Communications Director at WCRF International, said: “Today allows us to draw attention to governments and call on them to do more to tackle the risk factors common to cancer and other NCDs such as heart disease and diabetes.
“Measures to reduce the fat, sugar and salt content of food and drinks and to improve the opportunities for physical activity are the type of developments we need to cut these predictions of future cancer cases.”
Notes to editors:
- Figures from GLOBOCAN 2008 v1.2, Cancer Incidence and Mortality Worldwide: IARC CancerBase No. 10 [Internet]. Lyon, France: International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC); 2010. Available from: http://globocan.iarc.fr. Accessed on 10/1/12.
- IARC is a subsidiary body to WHO.
- World Cancer Day is held on February 4, focusing on prevention. The day’s slogan is ‘Together it is Possible’.
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