New research: Over 10,000 future cancer cases could be prevented by exercise and diet alone

Monday 19 March, 2012
Approx. 1800 breast cancers and 2500 bowel cancers could be prevented annually in Victoria in the future.

In Victoria more than 10,000 cancers each year could be prevented through improved diet and increased exercise alone, according to research on future projections released today in the Medical Journal of Australia.

Breast cancers and bowel cancers were found to be the most preventable cancer types with the potential to reduce breast cancer diagnoses by approximately 1800 cases and bowel cancer by 2500 cases in Victoria in 2025.

Co-author of the research and Director of the Cancer Prevention Centre at Cancer Council Victoria, Craig Sinclair said the potential for physical activity and diet to reduce cancer rates was enormous and if we do nothing to change the current status quo, state and federal governments will be facing a looming health crisis.

"In 2025 we estimate 42,500 Victorians will be diagnosed with cancer, this will be a significant burden on both individuals, communities and the health system, yet around 25% of these cancers could be prevented by two lifestyle changes. This research shows that even if you do nothing else but improve diets and increase exercise at a population level, you will have a massive impact on cancer rates.

"The challenge, however, is in motivating Victorians to make these two steps, particularly at a time when nearly one in five people are obese, diets are increasingly poor, physical activity is low and the workforce is more sedentary than ever before.

"More government attention needs to be focused on preventive services, health promotion and policies to create an environment in which healthy diets and physical activity are a part of daily life. Currently just over 2% of Australia's health expenditure (based on 2007-08 figures) is spent on prevention initiatives," said Mr Sinclair.

"It's positive that the Victorian Government appears to have recognised this looming health crisis with the launch of its Healthy Eating Enterprise and focus on educating young children about the importance of a healthy diet and exercise, but more will need to be done and the clock is ticking," said Mr Sinclair.

Only 8% of Victorians eat the recommended daily intake of vegetables and just over 60% exercise at a level to have any health benefits, while nearly half of the population is either overweight or obese.

"Environmental factors such as availability and price of fresh food, promotion of junk foods, as well as access to exercise facilities and public transport are critical factors that both state and federal governments will need to focus on," said Mr Sinclair.