healthy lifestylesNearly 600,000 cancer cases in the UK could have been avoided in the past five years if people had healthier lifestyles, according to new to a new study.

Statistics published by Cancer Research said that more than four in 10 cancers could be prevented by changes to lifestyle. With health services already overstretched and people living longer, prevention is vital to tackle cancer head on.

Smoking remains the biggest preventable cause of cancer in the UK, accounting for more than 314,000 cases in the past five years – nearly a fifth of all cancers.

But the charity’s new figures show a further 145,000 cases could have been prevented if people had eaten a healthy balanced diet low in red and processed meat and salt, and high in vegetables, fruit and fibre. Keeping a healthy weight could have prevented around 88,000 cases.

Cutting down on alcohol, protecting skin in the sun and taking more exercise could also have helped prevent tens of thousands of people in the UK developing cancer in the past five years.

Professor Max Parkin, a Cancer Research UK statistician based at Queen Mary University of London, whose study formed the basis of these latest figures, said: “There’s now little doubt that certain lifestyle choices can have a big impact on cancer risk, with research around the world all pointing to the same key risk factors.

Professor Linda Bauld, Cancer Research UK’s expert on cancer prevention, added: “There are more than 200 types of cancer each caused by a complex set of factors - involving both our genes and our lifestyles. There are proven ways to minimise our risk of cancer – like giving up smoking, being more active, drinking less alcohol and maintaining a healthy weight. We must make sure the public and the policy-makers know the evidence behind the study.