Cancers caused by lifestyle choices have soared in the past decade, official statistics show | Bolt Burdon Kemp Cancers caused by lifestyle choices have soared in the past decade, official statistics show | Bolt Burdon Kemp

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Cancers caused by lifestyle choices have soared in the past decade, official statistics show

As reported by the Telegraph, the figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reveal large increases in lifestyle related cancers.

The biggest rise has been in the rate of malignant skin cancer, which has increased by 56 per cent among men and 38 per cent among women since 2002.

Experts at the ONS blamed changes in fashion, which has seen people wear more revealing clothing in recent decades, along with increased levels of sunbathing and sun bed use.

Oral cancers, which have been linked to smoking and poor diet, have increased by 37 per cent while kidney cancer has increased by 25 per cent in men and 36 per cent in women. These are thought to be linked to drinking alcohol.

Overall new cases of cancer in England rose by almost a fifth between 2002 and 2011, when 274,233 patients were diagnosed.

Nick Ormiston-Smith, statistical information manager at Cancer Research UK, said “Forty per cent of cancers can be attributed to lifestyle factors so swapping some bad habits for healthier ones can help reduce the risk of developing the disease.

“Smoking increases the risk of at least 14 forms of cancer including lung, bowel, pancreatic and mouth. Cutting down on alcohol, keeping to a healthy weight, avoiding sunburn and being more active can also help reduce the risk of many cancers. Leading a healthy life doesn’t guarantee you won’t get cancer but it can stack the odds in your favour”.

The report by the ONS said the increase in skin cancer rates was probably due to changes in clothing over the last century and growing levels of sunbathing. As skin cancer can develop decades after damage caused by ultraviolet radiation, growing numbers of people are expected to be diagnosed with the disease.

The report said: “These increases are considered to be due to changes in exposure to solar UV rays as a result of altered patterns of behaviour in recent decades, such as choice of clothing and recreational sunbathing.”

Dr Raj Mallipeddi, a consultant dermatologist and skin cancer lead at St Thomas’ Hospital in London and a member of the British Association of Dermatologists, said: “The increase we are talking about is probably a reflection that in the 70s, 80s and 90s people were less conscious of sun awareness.

“However, we are seeing younger people with skin cancer, and a significant factor is the desire to appear tanned. This has not diminished. Although sun awareness is important for everyone, today’s teenagers and those in their 20s should be particularly careful. Unfortunately wanting to look good tends to override any concern about skin cancer.”

The number of men diagnosed with lung cancer was 19,173 – a reduction of 11 per cent since 2002. However, among women, lung cancer increased by 15 per cent to 15,675.

The report by the Office for National Statistics said: “The majority of lung cancer cases occur as a result of tobacco smoking, with around one in five cases in the UK being attributable to diet and occupational exposures.

Breast cancer was the most prevalent diagnosis among women, with figures increasing by 5.5 per cent since 2002 to 41,523. It is estimated that about 27 per cent of these are linked to lifestyle and environmental factors such as alcohol consumption, lack of physical activity and hormonal factors.

Ciarán Devane, chief executive at Macmillan Cancer Support, said: “It is startling that the number of new cases of cancer diagnosed has soared by nearly a fifth in the last ten years.

“While it is welcome news that the number of new cases of ovarian and stomach cancer rates have decreased, malignant melanoma is up by a huge 66%. The figures also reveal a worrying gender gap. Cancer affects women more in younger age groups, but men are significantly worse affected over the age of 60. The reasons for this are complex and only partially understood.”

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