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Australians reminded to make healthy lifestyle choices ahead of World Cancer Day

Experts are reminding Australians of the steps they can take to reduce their risk of cancer ahead of World Cancer Day on Saturday 4 February.

Research by QIMR Berghofer has previously shown that 37,000 Australian cancer cases could be prevented each year largely through lifestyle changes. That equates to one third of all cancer cases in Australia each year.

The study found that smoking, UV radiation, poor diet, being overweight or obese, and alcohol caused the vast majority (90 per cent) of those preventable cancers.

Professor David Whiteman, who led the study, said World Cancer Day was a good reminder for Australians to assess whether there was more they could do to reduce their risk.

“It’s well known that smoking and exposure to the sun can cause cancer, but other risk factors are less known,” Professor Whiteman said.

“In particular, people underestimate the cancer risk posed by alcohol, being overweight or obese, not eating enough fruit and vegetables, and being physically inactive.

“Inadequate intake of fruit, vegetables and fibre, and eating too much red and processed meat account for more than 7,000 cases of cancer each year. Being overweight or obese accounts for another 3,900 cases, while alcohol accounts for 3,200 cases.

“We all want to lead longer, healthier lives. Our research shows that one of the best ways we can try to achieve this is by targeting the known risk factors for cancer.

“Many Australians are confused by mixed health messages, but the evidence shows that a diet rich in vegetables, fruit and wholegrains, with other foods consumed in moderation, will reduce your risk of cancer.

“The thought of making major lifestyle changes can be overwhelming, but adding some extra fruit and vegetables to your diet is a simple step you can take today.

“This, combined with regular exercise like walking, will also help to reduce the risk of obesity-related cancers.”

Professor Whiteman’s study, which was published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health in 2015, is the most comprehensive of its kind ever published in Australia. The research was commissioned and funded by Cancer Council Australia.