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This year, World Cancer Day focuses on preventing cancer

by Henry Scowcroft | Analysis

4 February 2010

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World cancer day leaflet cover

Today is World Cancer Day

Cancer is a worldwide health issue.

Added together, the various types of cancer account for an eighth of all deaths worldwide. This is more than malaria, AIDS and tuberculosis put together, according to the International Union Against Cancer (UICC).

Today on World Cancer Day, the UICC is launching a new campaign ,  “Cancer can be prevented too“, to highlight the fact that a significant proportion of cancer cases in the future could be prevented if people take simple steps to change their lifestyles now.

At Cancer Research UK, we’re strongly supporting this campaign. On our website you can find a wealth of information about how lifestyle and cancer risk are connected, and what you can do if you want to reduce the risk of cancer:


Tobacco use is the biggest preventable cause of cancer. We’ve got information about what’s in a cigarette, tips on giving up and a summary of the science linking tobacco to cancer.


Alcohol’s in the headlines at the moment thanks to the new Department of Health campaign. On our website there’s plenty of information on the links between alcohol and cancer, including how alcohol actually causes cancer – and last week Ed posted a great summary of the latest science.

Bodyweight and obesity

One of the best ways to reduce cancer risk, after giving up smoking, is to keep a healthy bodyweight.  Read our Ten Top Tips for a healthy weight and, once again, have a look at the evidence.


Being inactive can increase the risk of a number of cancers – find out more about the links between physical activity and cancer, and, of course, read up on the evidence.


Of all the things in our lifestyles that are linked to cancer, our diet is perhaps the most talked about. We’ve blogged many times about misleading headlines that distract from the core messages – that a balanced diet high in fibre, fruit and veg and low in red and processed meat, saturated fat, and salt can lower the risk of cancer – but there’s no such thing as a ‘superfood’. And once again, we’ve reviewed the latest evidence.

UV radiation from the sun and sunbeds

Although we need a small amount of UV to make vitamin D, excessive amounts can cause skin cancer. Find out more on our comprehensive SunSmart microsite.


Although people can’t catch cancer from each other, some cancers are caused by infections by viruses and bacteria, as we wrote about last year. Infection-related cancers are a significant problem in the developing world, but  everyone can take steps to reduce our risk of these diseases.

Safe sex can prevent the transmission of hepatitis B and C, which cause liver cancer; and HPV, which causes several cancers including almost all cases of cervical cancer. We’ve written extensively about the HPV vaccine on this blog, and there’s more on our patient information website, CancerHelp UK.

A word about risk

It’s worth bearing in mind that we’re talking here about cancer risk – these are things you can do to load the dice in your favour but, as with so many things in life, there are no guarantees, and our genes play an important role too.

But helping spread awareness of the things we can all do to prevent cancer should lead to fewer people getting cancer in the future. So forward this post to your friends and family, visit the UICC website to download or order campaign resources – and remember: cancer can be prevented too.