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Lifestyle linked to nearly half of UK cancer cases

LONDON — Lifestyle choices such as smoking, alcohol or an unhealthy diet are linked to nearly half of Britain’s cancer cases, a study claimed on Wednesday.

These “preventable” cancers account for 45 percent of all cancers in men and 40 percent of cancers in women, according to Cancer Research UK — more than 100,000 cases a year.

The authors claim the study, which used a range of methods to estimate the risk of various lifestyle choices, is the most comprehensive ever written on the subject.

?Many people believe cancer is down to fate or ‘in the genes’ and that it is the luck of the draw whether they get it,” said author Max Parkin, an epidemiologist at Queen Mary, University of London.

?Looking at all the evidence, it’s clear that around 40 percent of all cancers are caused by things we mostly have the power to change.”

Smoking is by far the habit that increases cancer risk the most, causing 23 percent of all cancers in men and 15.6 percent of cases in women — 60,800 cases a year in total, according to the study.

For men, lack of fruit and vegetables — linked to 6.1 percent of cases — was the second most important factor, followed by work conditions such as whether they were exposed to asbestos (4.9 percent of cancers).

For women, the second biggest factor was obesity, linked to 6.9 percent of cases.

?We didn?t expect to find that eating fruit and vegetables would prove to be so important in protecting men against cancer,” said Parkin. “And among women we didn?t expect being overweight to have a greater effect than alcohol.”

Alcohol was blamed by the study for 3.3 percent of female cancers — fewer cases than those blamed on sunbeds (3.6 percent).

?Leading a healthy life doesn?t guarantee that a person won?t get cancer,” said Dr Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive. “But this study shows that healthy habits can significantly stack the odds in our favour.”

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