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Bluebell shopping basketNew data from a landmark study led by Cancer Research UK researchers looks at the things in people’s lives that cause cancer and calculates how many cases in the UK are linked to each of these risk factors.
Causes of cancer can be placed into two rough camps: those which can be controlled and those which can’t. The latter includes signals such as random changes to people’s genes as they get older, or hereditary mutations.

By their nature, there’s not much anyone can do about these risks. But for the many causes that people do have some control over, such as smoking, there’s a potentially life-saving chance to act. Armed with information about what increases risk, people can make changes that stack the odds of avoiding cancer in their favour. Politicians can see where action is needed most. The goal of new data Cancer Research UK released this week is to provide that information.

The data comes from a new study led by Cancer Research UK researchers. It looks at the things in people’s lives that cause cancer and then determines how many cases in the UK are linked to each of these risk factors. Cancer Research UK have done calculations like this before, but this new research uses all the latest available data and evidence to give more accurate estimates. Because some risk factors have become more common since the previous analysis and others have become less common, it’s important to update these figures.

The findings, published in the British Journal of Cancer, show that more than 135,000 cases of cancer could be prevented in the UK each year largely through lifestyle changes – that’s around 4 in 10 cases. And while what’s behind these cancers may not come as a surprise, the results confirm how the things we do each day can add up.
The study did this for all the risk factors and found that in total, more than 135,000 cases of cancer could be prevented through changes such as stopping smoking, keeping a healthy weight and eating a healthy diet. Enjoying the sun safely, avoiding certain substances, protecting against certain infections and cutting back on alcohol can also help.

It must be reiterated again that this research can’t tell what has caused or will cause an individual’s cancer. The data comes from comparing large groups of people so, while research has shown that, for example, being overweight can increase the risk of cancer, it doesn’t mean you will definitely get cancer if you are overweight. And this is true for the other risk factors as well.

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