Raise in certain cancers ‘linked to lifestyle choices’

25 June 2014

There has been an increase in the number of people being diagnosed with lifestyle-related cancers in England, according to new figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The report reveals that rates of liver cancer rose substantially during the past ten years - by 70 per cent among men and 68 per cent among women between 2003 and 2012. This means it is now the 18th most common form of the disease in the country.

According to Cancer Research UK, the main causes of liver cancer are tobacco, infections with hepatitis B and C, as well as excess alcohol consumption.

Incidence rates for the most dangerous form of skin cancer - malignant melanoma - have surged by 78 per cent for men and 48 per cent among women in the last decade. According to ONS figures, around 11,300 people are diagnosed with this form of the disease every year, making it the fifth most prevalent form of cancer in England.

It is a widely known fact that overexposure to the sun is a major contributor in the development of skin cancer. Experts believe the rise in rates is partly due to the increasing popularity of package holidays that has been witnessed over the last 50 years.

The ONS figures also reveal that the rates of lung cancer have increased by 18 per cent among women between 2003 and 2012. Conversely, the prevalence of this form of cancer amid the male population dropped by eight per cent. Startlingly, more than eight out of ten cases of lung cancer are still caused by smoking, even though the risks are widely known.

Cancer Research UK believes that the results mean that thousands of cancer diagnoses could be prevented if people make certain changes to their lifestyles, such as stopping smoking, consuming less alcohol, eating more healthily and restricting the amount of time spent in the sun.

Nicola Smith, health information officer at the charity, commented: “This sharp increase in liver cancer is extremely worrying, but it's still a relatively uncommon cancer and there are clear lifestyle changes people can make to lower their risk. Cutting down on alcohol and not smoking can lower your risk, as can taking precautions against hepatitis C infection like not sharing needles and practising safe sex.

"The explosion in package holidays to hot European beaches dating from the late 60s is probably part of the reason malignant melanoma rates continue to go up as the disease can take decades to develop.”

She added that it is incredibly important for people to actively avoid being sunburnt, whether at home or abroad. Ms Smith suggested covering up, staying in the shade when the sun is at its strongest and using at least SPF15 sunscreen on skin that is not covered up.

According to the ONS figures, prostate, lung and bowel cancers are still the most common forms of the disease among men, while  breast, lung and bowel cancers were the most prevalent types in women.

Matt Wickenden, Cancer Research UK's senior statistical information officer, said the charity wants to boost the number of people surviving cancer. He said: “We're urging the Government to introduce plain, standardised tobacco packaging without delay to stop the next generation taking up the deadly habit that kills half of all long-term users.”

Posted by Jeanette Royston


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