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Lifestyle Factors Key to Saving Lives - Millions of Preventable Cancer Cases

  • Published: 2011-02-04 : Author: Cancer Information
  • Synopsis: Global trend of unhealthy sedentary lifestyles responsible for putting millions at high risk of cancer.

On World Cancer Day, new independent evidence confirms that the increasing global trend of unhealthy and sedentary lifestyles is responsible for putting millions at an unnecessarily high risk of cancer.

New estimates released today by the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) global network suggest that across a range of countries, making lifestyle changes including maintaining a healthy weight, eating a healthy diet and taking regular physical activity can reduce the risk of common cancers by up to a third.[1]

These findings are further supported by the World Health Organization's (WHO) new Global Recommendations on Physical Activity for Health.[2] This landmark report reinforces that regular physical activity has the potential to prevent many diseases such as breast and colon cancers, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes. The report addresses three age groups (5-17 years old, 18-64 years old, and 65 years old and above) and provides concrete recommendations for levels of physical activity needed for health;[2] these recommendations are especially helpful for low- and middle-income countries, where few national guidelines for physical activity exist.

"Physical activity is recommended for people of all ages as a means to reduce risks for certain types of cancers and other non-communicable diseases," says Dr Tim Armstrong, from WHO's Department of Chronic Diseases and Health Promotion. "In order to improve their health and prevent several diseases, adults should do at least 150 minutes moderate physical activity throughout the week. This can be achieved by simply walking 30 minutes five times per week or by cycling to work daily".

There is also consistent evidence that other healthy living initiatives are vital in reducing the risk of cancer including stopping tobacco use, avoiding exposure to passive smoke, avoiding excessive sun exposure and protecting against cancer-causing infections. And to help fight the global cancer epidemic, the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) is urging individuals to take action and support the World Cancer Declaration at

Signing the Declaration will help UICC in its effort to motivate global leaders to set realistic and achievable directives for preventing cancer during the United Nations Summit for Non-Communicable Diseases in September 2011. There has only been one UN General Assembly special session focused on health since 1947; the announcement of the 2011 summit is an unprecedented step in the battle against cancer.

Dr Eduardo Cazap, President of UICC summarized, "Support World Cancer Day by signing the World Cancer Declaration and help us achieve the goal of one million supporters for a Cancer Free World. With individuals, governments and policy makers of the world working together, we have the ability to ease the global burden of cancer now and for future generations."

Background information

About cancer -Cancer is a leading cause of death around the world and its incidence continues to rise. Each year 12.7 million people discover they have cancer and 7.6 million people die from the disease. Evidence shows that 30-40% of all cancer deaths can be prevented,[3] and one-third can be cured through early diagnosis and treatment.

There are about 200 known types of cancer.[4] As with most illnesses cancer is multi-factorial which means that there is no single cause for any one type of cancer. However, certain largely controllable or avoidable lifestyle and environmental factors are also known to be causes of cancer.

For more information on health living initiatives please visit:

About UICC -The Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) is the leading international non-governmental organization dedicated to the global prevention and control of cancer. UICC's mission is to eliminate cancer as a life-threatening disease for future generations. Founded in 1933, UICC unites 400 member organizations, specialized and engaged in cancer control, in more than 120 countries across the world. UICC is non-profit, non-political and non-sectarian. Its headquarters are in Geneva, Switzerland. For more information please visit or join our join us on Facebook:

About the World Cancer Declaration -The World Cancer Declaration is a tool to help bring the growing cancer crisis to the attention of government leaders and health policymakers in order to significantly reduce the global cancer burden by 2020. It represents a consensus between government officials, public health experts and cancer advocates from around the world who are committed to eliminate cancer as a life-threatening disease for future generations.

The Declaration outlines 11 targets to be achieved by 2020 including: significant drops in global tobacco consumption, obesity and alcohol intake, universal vaccination programs for hepatitis B and human papilloma virus (HPV) to prevent liver and cervical cancer, universal availability of effective pain medication and dispelling myths and misconceptions about cancer. As the custodian of the Declaration, UICC encourages priority actions to achieve the Declaration's targets locally and nationally and promotes a comprehensive response across the globe. For more information please visit -

About the UN high level meeting on non-communicable diseases -In May 2010, the United Nations General Assembly unanimously passed a resolution on the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), calling for a UN Summit on NCDs to be held on the 19-20 September 2011 in New York. The Summit will address the prevention and control of cancer, cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease and diabetes, which together account for 60% (35 million) of global deaths. The largest burden - 80% (28 million) - occurs in low- and middle- income countries, making NCDs a major risk to global development and economic growth. For more information on the NCD summit visit:


[1] WCRF/AICR prevent-ability estimates: Update to estimates produced for the 2009 Policy Report. 2011. World Cancer Research Fund.

[2] WHO. Recommendations on Physical Activity for Health

[3] WHO, 2007: 'The World Health Organization's Fight Against Cancer'. Available at: Last accessed Jan 2011

[4] Cancer Research UK. Available from: Last accessed Jan 2011

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