The globe is facing a “tidal wave” of cancer, and restrictions on alcohol and sugar need to be considered, say World Health Organization.
It predicts the number of cancer cases will reach 24 million a year by 2035, but half could be prevented.
The WHO said there was now a “real need” to focus on cancer prevention by tackling smoking, obesity and drinking.
The World Cancer Research Fund said there was an “alarming” level of naivety about diet’s role in cancer.
Fourteen million people a year are diagnosed with cancer, but that is predicted to increase to 19 million by 2025, 22 million by 2030 and 24 million by 2035.
The developing world will bear the brunt of the extra cases
The director of the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, “The global cancer burden is increasing and quite markedly, due predominately to the ageing of the populations and population growth.
These are major sources of preventable cancer included:
Obesity and inactivity
Radiation, both from the sun and medical scans
Air pollution and other environmental factors
Delayed parenthood, having fewer children and not breastfeeding
For most countries, breast cancer is the most common cancer in women. However, cervical cancer dominates in large parts of Africa.
Prevention had a “crucial role in combating the tidal wave of cancer which we see coming across the world”.
In relation to alcohol, for example, we’re all aware of the acute effects, whether it’s car accidents or assaults, but there’s a burden of disease that’s not talked about because it’s simply not recognised, specifically involving cancer.
“The extent to which we modify the availability of alcohol, the labelling of alcohol, the promotion of alcohol and the price of alcohol – those things should be on the agenda.”
He said there was a similar argument to be had with sugar fuelling obesity, which in turn affected cancer risk.
Meanwhile, a survey of 2,046 people in the UK by the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) suggested 49% do not know that diet increases the risk of developing cancer.
Amanda McLean, general manager for the WCRF, said: “It’s very alarming to see that such a large number of people don’t know that there’s a lot they can do to significantly reduce their risk of getting cancer.
About a third of the most common cancers could be prevented through being a healthy weight, eating a healthy diet and being regularly physically active.
“These results show that many people still seem to mistakenly accept their chances of getting cancer as a throw of the dice, but by making lifestyle changes today, we can help prevent cancer tomorrow.”
It advises a diet packed with vegetables, fruit, and wholegrain; cutting down on alcohol and red meat; and junking processed meat completely.
“People can cut their risk of cancer by making healthy lifestyle choices, but it’s important to remember that the government and society are also responsible for creating an environment that supports healthy lifestyles.