Statistics show over 40% of Britons will get cancerWritten by Janet Lakin
Researchers from Macmillan Cancer Support have revised their previous figures and now predict that 4 in 10 Britons will get caner in their lifetime - (The Guardian14 July 2011).
This is a shocking statistic and we really should be asking ourselves why figures are rising and what we can do to minimise our risk. Read the article and then my comments below – the first in a series which discusses what you can do to reduce your risk of becoming one of those four:
Denis Campbell. guardian.co.uk, Thursday 14 July 2011
New cancer statistics show that four in 10 Britons will get the disease in their lifetime, as incidence of cancers rise, says charity. The number of Britons who have or have had cancer increased from 1.5 million to 2 million but advances in treatment mean survival rates are improving.
It was one of the starkest statistics about the nation's health – that one in three of us would get cancer. Sadly, the figures have just got worse. Cancer experts now believe 42% of Britons will get the disease. Macmillan Cancer Support has revised the figure after its researchers analysed official data covering diagnosis of cancer, death from the disease and overall mortality. Of the 585,000 people who died in the UK in 2008, 246,000 of them – 42% – had been diagnosed with cancer at some point.
The one in three figure has been used by cancer experts, campaigners and ministers for a decade. It is based on the fact that research into every death in the UK in 1999 showed that 220,000 people – some 35% of the 630,000 total deaths – had previously been found to have the disease.
The new figures tally with recent research that the incidence of cancer is rising, mainly due to the UK's ageing population. "It is alarming that the number of people who will get cancer is now well past one in three, and that there are so many more people with cancer today than even 10 years ago," said Ciaran Devane, Macmillan's chief executive. "These figures highlight the increasing impact that cancer can have on so many of our lives," said Dr Clare Gerada, chair of the Royal College of GPs.
About 310,000 people were diagnosed with cancer in 2008, and 157,000 died from it. The number of people developing the disease is estimated to be rising by 3.2% a year because of ageing and other factors such as increasing obesity and some cancers emerging later in people's lives, after they have spent many years smoking.
The figure for the number of Britons alive who have or have had cancer at some point has recently been increased from 1.5 million to 2 million. But Devane warned that this, too, is set to rise sharply. "There are currently 2 million people living with cancer in the UK and that number is doubling to 4 million over the next 20 years. Yet no one thinks the country can afford to double its spending on cancer," Devane said.
More positively, improvements in diagnosis and treatment mean survival from some cancers is increasing, too. "Survival rates have doubled over the last 40 years, and this is one of the success stories of modern medicine," said Henry Scowcroft, Cancer Research UK's science information manager. Gerada said: "Thanks to clinical advances and brilliant research, we are now more likely to know people living with cancer, rather than dying from it. If diagnosed early enough, cancers such as breast, skin and colon cancers are treatable, and many patients will go on to live long and healthy lives. Early diagnosis is vital, and this depends largely on patients presenting to their GPs as early as possible, and GPs having greater access to diagnostics."
GPs are working hard to improve their early diagnosis of cancer, added Gerada. Failings on that have been blamed for Britain's poor survival rates compared with other European and western countries.
Although it’s great news that, through advancements in diagnosis and treatments, cancer survival rates are improving, surely prevention is better?
According to Cancer Research, unhealthy diets cause from 10 to 30% of cancer deaths in developed countries. Yet many fail to eat a balanced diet. Here are a few simple changes you can make:
1. Eat more fruit and vegetables
It is simple advice and a message we hear time and time again but eating more fruit and veg (with the onus on veg) really can help lower your cancer risk.
The government currently recommends at least 5 portions of fruit and veg a day. However, it is interesting that in some countries the minimum recommendation is way above this. In France it’s 10 portions. Canadians are encouraged to aim for between 5 and 10 portions. The Japanese government now recommends up to 13 portions of vegetables and four of fruit each day. (Although Japanese portions tend to be smaller than ours – 50g versus 80g, it still adds up to a lot more than our reccomendation.)
In an article in The Guardian entitled 'Is 5 a day enough?' Jacqui Lowdon, a dietician with the British Dietetic Association, was quoted as saying that ‘5 a day’ is: " ....probably less than ideal. Many studies recommend seven for women and nine for men (because of their increased calorie requirements). The reason they [the Department of Health] chose five was that they thought there was no way anyone was going to achieve seven to nine portions a day." Remember, too, that the five-a-day campaign slogan has two little-noticed words in front of it: "at least". Five may be the number that is marketed, yet this figure only represents the minimum recommended number of daily portions."
The importance of eating more fruit and veg is reflected in the EPIC study (the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition) which found that eating 2.5 portions of fruit and vegetables was associated with a 3% lower risk of cancer. Those who ate their five a day had a 9% lower risk. However, people who ate 8 portions a day decreased their chances by 11%.
When upping your fruit and veg intake, it is beneficial to eat a broad range of differently coloured fruit and vegetables. Their different colour pigments will contain an array of important phytochemcials – all of which can help protect us in different ways.
Data from some studies suggests that brassica vegetables (such as cabbage, broccoli, kale and Brussel Sprouts, cauliflower) have a particularly high protective effect against cancer due to their high glucosinolate content.
If you find the prospect of eating more fruit and veg daunting you could consider the following:
- A handful of berries or sliced fruit on your cereal
- Add grilled tomatoes, mushrooms and wilted spinach with a cooked breakfast
- Soups and casseroles - throw extra vegetables in
- Protein based smoothies
- Vegetable juices
- Include a side salad with at least one meal a day
- Snack on vegetable sticks with hummous or nut butter
- Fruit makes a great snack - eat with nuts to reduce it's effect on your blood sugar
Potatoes don't count - so a few plates of chips a day won't do it!
2. Reduce Sugar
A diet high in sugar increases the production of insulin. (Insulin is a hormone required to take sugar out of the blood and pack it away into cells). The more insulin that is available to cancer cells the more they will grow and spread. To find out more, Millie wrote an interesting blog ‘New Evidence Links Sugar To Cancer Growth’ about this a few weeks ago.
3. Eat Sufficient fibre
The EPIC study found that those who ate the most fibre had a greatly reduced risk of colorectal cancer.
Indeed a further study found that in populations with low average intake of dietary fibre, an approximate doubling of total fibre intake from foods could reduce the risk of colorectal cancer by 40%.
Do you have a bowel movement every day? Constipation is a sign that you may not be eating sufficient fibre. Fibre can be found in wholegrains, beans, legumes, vegetables, nuts and seeds.
4. Watch your alcohol intake
Alcohol causes about 6% of cancer deaths in the UK. Cancer Research state that as little as 3 units a day (equivalent to a premium larger or large glass of wine) can increase the risk of mouth, throat, food pipe, breast and bowel cancers.
An exception here appears to be red wine which contains polyphenols such as catechins and resveratrol. These are thought to have antioxidant or anticancer properties. In particular they may help reduce the risk of prostate cancer.
Unfortunately this doesn’t give you free reign to drink the whole bottle! As stated, consumption of large amounts of alcoholic beverages may increase the risk of some cancers. It is thought that the health benefits of red wine are related to its non alcoholic components.
5. Enjoy a curry!
Research published in The British Journal of Cancer details how the bright yellow curry spice turmeric has been shown to have anti-cancer properties.
In my next blog…
In my next blog I will be looking at how hormone disruption and exposure to environmental oestrogens may also pose a cancer risk.
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