"Once-in-generation" Chance for 2.8 Million Preventable Cancers

By World Cancer Research Fund, PRNE
Tuesday, September 6, 2011

LONDON, September 7, 2011 -

The United Nations (UN) Summit on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), such as cancer and heart disease, is a “once-in-a-generation” opportunity to avoid a public health disaster, according to a cancer charity.

World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) issued the warning as it released estimates that there are about 2.8 million global cancer cases a year linked to diet, physical activity and weight, a figure expected to rise dramatically over the next decade.

The number of cancers worldwide has increased by a fifth in less than 10 years to reach 12 million new cases a year, more than four times the rate of HIV infection.

NCDs are a threat to the whole world, particularly developing countries, with rates of heart disease, cancer, diabetes and respiratory disease expected to soar. The UN Summit on September 19/20 will focus on reducing this burden.

It is only the second time in the UN’s history that a health issue is receiving such global attention.

Failure to develop a robust policy for NCD prevention will lead to millions of preventable deaths and WCRF is calling on David Cameron to attend the Summit in person to demonstrate his commitment to tackling NCDs in the UK and worldwide.

Professor Martin Wiseman, Medical and Scientific Advisor for WCRF, said: “Cancer and other lifestyle-related diseases are one of the biggest challenges we face today and the UN Summit is a real turning point.

“With millions of lives at risk around the world, the stakes are incredibly high. And while this is an issue facing millions globally, every day in the UK people are being diagnosed with a cancer that could have been prevented.

“Yet many are still unaware that factors such as alcohol and obesity affect cancer risk while, from television advertising to the pricing of food, our society works in a way that discourages healthy habits. This Summit offers the chance to look at public health issues at the international level.”

While cancer rates are higher in richer countries, cancer and other non-communicable diseases are increasingly affecting developing countries, many of which do not have the health infrastructure to cope with a large increase in cancer cases.

WCRF International will be attending the Summit in New York. Today (Sept 11) they are holding a press conference that is being streamed live at www.wcrf.org/live or you can find out more about WCRF and the Summit at www.wcrf.org

Notes to editors:

  • The aim of the September 2011 UN Summit is to bring Heads of State and other representatives from the UN member states together to agree on commitments to tackle the growing global burden of cancer and other NCDs. These commitments will be agreed in an official Summit Outcomes Document, which will detail the commitments made by countries around the world.
  • The four major NCDs are: cancer, heart disease, diabetes and lung disease. Globally, two in every three deaths are caused by NCDs and NCDs are a serious problem in all regions of the world and affect high, middle and low-income countries. NCDs share a number of common risk factors, such as tobacco use, obesity, unhealthy diets and physical inactivity.
  • The 2.8 million has been calculated by using the findings of the Preventability Estimates that about 25% of all cancer could be prevented in high-income countries and 20% in medium and low-income countries. These percentages were then applied to what the Globocan database (globocan.iarc.fr/) categorises as “more developed” and “less developed” regions to calculate the total number of preventable cancers.

About WCRF

World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) raises awareness that cancer is largely preventable and helps people make choices to reduce their chances of developing the disease.

This includes funding scientific research into how cancer risk is related to diet, physical activity, and weight management, and education programmes that highlight the fact that about a third of the most common cancers could be prevented through changes to lifestyle.

The WCRF report, called Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Cancer: a Global Perspective, is the most comprehensive report ever published on the subject and can be downloaded at www.dietandcancerreport.org

For more information about WCRF, visit our website at www.wcrf.org

Contact: Richard Evans on +44(0)20-7343-4253, E-mail: r.evans at wcrf.org, or Andy Wilks on +44(0)20-7343-4273.

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