More than 200, 000 cancer cases could be avoided in Australia over the next 25 years if people maintained a healthy weight and did about an hour of brisk walking most days, a new QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute study has found.
The research, led by QIMR Berghofer Senior Scientist and Deputy Director Professor David Whiteman, has been published in the International Journal of Cancer.
Australian Bureau of Statistics figures show 62 per cent of Australian adults are overweight or obese and 48 per cent do not do enough physical activity.
Cancer accounts for three in 10 deaths in Australia.
Professor Whiteman said the findings were a sobering reminder this World Cancer Day (4 February), that healthy eating and exercise could improve future health outcomes.
“We found up to 12 per cent of all overweight/obesity-related cancers in Australia – such as oesophageal adenocarcinoma, stomach cardia, colorectal, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, postmenopausal breast, endometrial, ovarian and thyroid cancer – could be avoided over the next 25 years if people changed their behaviour,” Professor Whiteman said.
“We also found up to 2 per cent of all inactivity-related cancers such as colon, postmenopausal breast and endometrial cancers could be prevented if Australians did five hours of moderate-intensity physical activity or 2.5 hours of vigorous exercise each week.
“That’s about 190,000 cases of overweight/obesity-related cancers and 19,000 cases of inactivity-related cancers.
“Maintaining a healthy weight and exercising within recommended guidelines would also help cut the rates of other causally related diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and dementia.”
Cancer Council Australia CEO, Professor Sanchia Aranda, said the potential to save thousands of lives could not be taken lightly.
“Improving your diet can be as simple as eating more fruit, vegetables and whole grains. An easy measure is the 2 & 5 goal – two fruits and five serves of vegetables every day,” Professor Aranda said.
“While it is important for people to look after themselves by doing regular physical activity and eating a balanced diet, Australia’s obesity problem cannot be placed entirely on the individual’s shoulders.
“In the lead up to the next federal election, both sides of politics need to recognise their responsibility to help protect children from mass marketing of junk food; improve the Health Star Rating food labelling system to provide simpler, more informed choices to consumers; and promote more public education about the benefits of good nutrition and exercise.”
The study was funded by Cancer Council Australia and the National Health and Medical Research Council and commissioned by Cancer Council Australia.
More information about cancer risks can be found in the QIMR Berghofer Cancer Risk Guide.