World needs to step up efforts on cancer prevention

02 December 2014

A leading international cancer prevention organisation has called for a renewed global commitment to cancer prevention ahead of a major international conference on the disease.

The call by World Cancer Research Fund International was made in the wake of growing evidence about the links between lifestyle, obesity and cancer. It comes at the start of the four day World Cancer Congress in Melbourne, Australia (3 to 6 December).

Research from the organisation’s Continuous Update Project (CUP) consistently shows strong links between lifestyle factors such as diet, physical activity and weight, and the disease. There is now strong evidence that nine cancers are linked to excess weight. But as the scientific evidence has mounted, so has the tide of obesity-related cancers around the world.

An estimated 21 million cancer cases are expected worldwide by 2030. Today, an estimated 500,000 cancer cases are attributable to excess weight.

Humanity will not be able to treat its way out of this problem. But World Cancer Research Fund International estimates that 2.8 million cases a year could be prevented through diet, physical activity and keeping a healthy weight.

Kate Allen, Executive Director of Science and Public Affairs at World Cancer Research Fund International, said a renewed global focus on prevention was needed alongside changes to the food and lifestyle environments that people live in.

She said: “Tackling the rising tide of overweight and obesity is key to cancer prevention, particularly in developing countries.

“In the developed world there is some evidence that the rise in obesity is slowing. But the opposite is happening in developing countries. In fact, it is in these states where obesity is an accelerating problem.

“National governments, the cancer community and health professionals have a long way to go to address the lifestyle factors of overweight, lack of physical activity, poor diet and alcohol linked with cancer. We need to maintain the efforts already underway whilst accepting that a sustainable approach to the problem will require more than a focus on individual responsibility.

“There is no single solution but we do believe governments need to step up implementation of cancer prevention policies. That includes acting to improve the food and lifestyle environments that people live in.”

WCRF International wants a comprehensive approach to implementing policies that enable people to adopt the kind of lifestyle choices that make it easier to live healthy lives.

Efforts to encourage healthy lifestyles need to start early, the first thousand days from conception to age two are critical to health both in childhood and later life.

During the conference the organisation will be meeting with national cancer societies from 12 countries to discuss strategies to improve lifestyle-related cancer prevention policies. We will also be co-chairing a panel discussion with the World Health Organisation (WHO) on what policy actions are needed, and how to advance their implementation to reduce the global burden of cancer.


Notes to editors:

World Cancer Congress ‘Joining Forces – Accelerating Progress’ 2014 will take place in Melbourne, Australia, 3 to 6 December 2014. Twitter: @2014WCC #CancerCongress

Our analysis of global research shows that about a third of the most common cancers are preventable through a nutritious diet, maintaining a healthy weight and regular physical activity. See our Cancer Prevention Recommendations:

A link to our policies to reduce cancer & other non-communicable diseases:

For more information:

Paul Hebden, Press and PR Manager, World Cancer Research Fund on 020 343 4273 / 07823 325009,