About four in 10 UK cancer cases could be prevented, according to Cancer Research UK – which offers easy steps to help lower risk

Cancer causes: why drinking less, quitting smoking and a little exercise can lower chance of illness

New research shows almost half of global cancer deaths are caused by known risk factors, with smoking, alcohol use and obesity among the greatest contributors (Credit: Tim Sloan/AFP via Getty)

By Paul GallagherHealth Correspondent

About four in 10 cancer cases in the UK could be prevented, with stopping smoking top of the list of actions people can take, according to Cancer Research UK.

Smoking causes most lung cancers and also makes it more likely you will get other cancers.

Although not easy to do, there is lots of free help available with the option of talking to nurse, pharmacist or GP to discuss what could work best. Evidence shows that people who use free services are more likely to stop smoking.

The advice is timely given new research, published in The Lancet, which shows almost half of global cancer deaths are caused by known risk factors – with smoking, alcohol use and obesity among the greatest contributors.

Drinking less alcohol also reduces your risk. Alcohol gets broken down into a harmful chemical and can also affect our body’s chemical signals, making cancer more likely to develop.

Cancer Research UK advises people to take a note of how much they drink on a daily or weekly basis. The UK Chief Medical Officers advise that to keep the risk from alcohol low, adults should not regularly drink more than 14 units of alcohol per week.

Being overweight is also a major risk factor which can cause 13 different types of cancer, including breast and bowel cancer.

The message is: eat healthier food, and consume fewer unhealthy foods, to make a difference, while also being more active.

This does not have to mean huge amounts of exercise, but simply moving about more – walking to shops or friend’s houses that are within a mile or two rather than driving, for example.

Eating more fruit, vegetables and high fibre foods like brown bread and brown pasta is recommended, while eating less red meat, junk food and sugary drinks will help.

Given the recent heatwaves, Cancer Research rounds off its top tips by advising people to stay out of the midday sun and make sure sun cream and hats are worn when spending a lot of time outdoors between March and October.

It recommends a sun cream of at least factor 15 or four or five stars to reduce the risk of melanoma skin cancer. People should also avoid “dangerous” sun beds.

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