13,000 Scots could avoid cancer every year


Cancer Research UK Scotland has uncovered exactly how many Scots get cancer from smoking, eating too much and drinking alcohol

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23rd March 2018 by Susan Smith 0 Comments

Thirteen thousand Scots a year could avoid cancer by doing things like quitting smoking, eating less or cutting down on alcohol.

Cancer Research UK has for the first time uncovered exactly how many people become ill from preventable cancers, and found that just over 40% of all cancers could be avoided.

Smoking is by far the biggest risk factor for cancer, causing 5,700 Scots to become ill in 2015, the year the data has come from.

Tobacco smoke led to 21% of all male cancers and 16% of all female cancers in that year.

Being overweight or obese is the next most dangerous risk factor, according to the charity. It caused 2,200 cases of cancer in Scotland in 2015, around 7% of all cancers.

Obesity causes 13 types of cancer, including bowel, breast, womb and kidney. And the results suggest that more than 1 in 20 cancer cases could be prevented by maintaining a healthy weight.

The third biggest preventable cause of cancer in Scotland is infections, which cause around 1,400 cases of cancer a year (5% of all cancer cases). Most of these cases are linked to Human Papillomavirus (HPV) and H. Pylori.

Occupational exposures and UV radiation both led to more cancer than alcohol, which is responsible for 3.5% of all cancers in Scotland.

In recent weeks, Cancer Research UK has been running a campaign across the UK featuring posters and radio adverts to increase awareness that obesity can cause cancer.

In light of the findings, the charity has renewed its call to the Scottish Government to introduce legislation to restrict bargain-buy special offers on junk food.

Professor Linda Bauld, Cancer Research UK’s prevention expert, based at the University of Stirling, said: “These research findings are startling in that, for the first time, we can see how many cases of cancer in Scotland could be prevented by things like not smoking and keeping a healthy weight.

“With smoking rates continuing to decline, carrying excess weight is the biggest public health threat on the horizon. This alarming number of weight-related cancer cases poses a huge challenge in the fight against cancer.”

However, ASH Scotland chief executive Sheila Duffy suggested the findings highlight the far greater need to fund services that will help people stop smoking.

“Smoking is the primary preventable cause of ill health and death in Scotland. That hasn’t changed in decades, and sadly it’s unlikely to change in the near future. Reducing all preventable cancer risk factors is important, but the single best way to prevent future cancers is to act now to bring smoking rates down.

“This study highlights the need for a strong and effective new tobacco strategy to take us further on our journey to a tobacco-free Scotland in 2034, and ASH Scotland calls on the Scottish Government to at least maintain an inflation-linked commitment to continue resourcing work to reduce smoking. When over 10,000 people die every year because of smoking it must be an urgent priority.”

David Morrison, director of the Scottish Cancer Registry Information Services Division (ISD), which provided data for the study, said: "This work reasserts the opportunity we have in Scotland to reduce the number of cancers that occur.  

“Scotland's high-quality cancer data allow us to accurately monitor cancer occurrence, treatment and outcomes and we are investing in further improvements in the Scottish Cancer Registry and Intelligence Service to better inform the public, patients and clinicians."

Key preventable cause of cancerNumber of cases each year in Scotland% of all cancer cases in Scotland
Tobacco smoke5,73618.2%
Overweight and obesity2,1536.8%
Occupational exposures1,3734.4%
UV radiation exposure1,1573.7%
Too little fibre1,0933.5%
Ionising radiation exposure5531.8%
Processed meat4901.6%
Air pollution2880.9%
Insufficient physical activity1710.5%
All preventable risk factors13,03841.5%