Poor diet in Harlow raises cancer risks

IN the East of England, 47% of adults are not aware that having a poor diet increases the risk of developing cancer, making them the least aware in Britain (41% national average), a poll for World Cancer Research Fund has found[1].

Eating a poor diet, often featuring too much sugar or fat, can lead to being overweight or obese which increases people’s risk of developing 10 common cancers including bowel, breast (postmenopausal) and pancreas[2]. The figures were described by the charity as ‘alarming’, given 62 per cent[3] of the English adult population is currently overweight or obese.

The YouGov poll also found that 57% of adults in the region are not aware of the increased cancer risk of being physically inactive (compared to a national average of 54%), 52% are not aware that drinking alcohol increases the risk of cancer (compared to a national average of 43%), and 42% are not aware that being overweight also increases the risk of cancer (compared to a national average of 41%).

After not smoking, being a healthy weight is the most important thing people can do to reduce their cancer risk. World Cancer Research Fund estimates that about a third of the most common cancers could be prevented through choosing a healthy diet, being physically active and maintaining a healthy body weight – about 84,000 cases a year in the UK.

The charity has launched a campaign, ‘I CAN’, to improve these low levels of awareness and encourage people to take action. The campaign will help people to stick to healthy New Year’s resolutions that could reduce their cancer risk. People can sign up to receive email tips on weight, diet, alcohol and physical activity by visiting www.wcrf.org/ICAN.

Amanda McLean, Director at World Cancer Research Fund UK, said:

“It is worrying that so many people in the East of England are still not aware that having a poor diet can increase their chances of developing cancer.

“Our research has shown that about 24,000 cancer cases in the UK could be avoided if everyone was a healthy weight. This New Year we hope people will get behind our campaign, ‘I CAN’, and make small changes to their lifestyles – they could make a huge difference to their health.

“It doesn’t have to be anything too difficult – cutting down on high calorie foods and sugary drinks, drinking less alcohol, or even 10 to 15 extra minutes each day of physical activities such as brisk walking could all decrease a person’s cancer risk.”

When comparing England, Scotland and Wales, the poll showed that Welsh adults are the least aware that being overweight (51% aware), physically inactive (44% aware), eating a poor diet (59% aware) and drinking alcohol (52% aware) increase the risk of developing cancer. Regionally, adults in Yorkshire and the Humber are the least aware of the link between physical inactivity and the risk of cancer (59% not aware compared to a national average of 54%) and adults in the West Midlands are the least aware that drinking alcohol (54% not aware compared to a national average of 43%), increase the risk of developing cancer.

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