Poor lifestyle choices causes a surge in cancer rates

cigarettesThere are fresh concerns that poor choices in lifestyle may be attributed to a large increase in the number of certain cancers following the publication of data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The number of cases of malignant melanoma, an aggressive form of skin cancer, has seen the biggest rise, shooting up by 56% amongst men and 38% for women between the years 2002 and 2011.

Melanoma is relatively rare, but has become more prominent in recent times because of the surge in people using sunbeds. The cancer is caused due to cells beginning to abnormally develop in the skin and health experts believe it is exposure to UV light from natural or artificial sources such as a sunbed could be responsible. It starts within the skin and may spread to organs in the body. A usual sign of this cancer is the change of an existing mole of the sudden appearance of a new one.

Health experts at the ONS believe the rise in melanoma cases could be due to gradual changes in the nation’s fashion choices, with people more skin-revealing clothes in recent years. This together with large amounts of the population sunbathing at every rare chance of sunshine across the country and an increase in the use of sunbeds has put people at risk.

ONS statistics also show that in total, all combined new cases of cancer across England increased by a fifth between 2002 and 2011 – with 274,233 patients being diagnosed with cancer in 2011. From the 274,233, men made up 139,120 of the new diagnoses compared with 135,113 women. Both figures will no doubt be a lot more after additional hospital admissions are included in the totals.

The most prominent cancers in men are still the previous common types; prostate (25.6%), lung (13.8%) and colorectal (13.6%).

Smoking and poor diet are the main factors responsible for a surge in oral cancers, which have increased by 37%. Kidney cancer has also increased by 25% in men and 36% in women.

Both of these cancers are heavily linked to excessive alcohol consumption and tobacco usage. In fact these two factors together are believed to actually account for a staggering three-quarters of all oral cancer cases in Europe.

Nick Ormiston-Smith, statistical information manager at Cancer Research UK, spoke on how the nation’s poor lifestyle choices are being underestimated and are causing huge health problems later in life.

He said: “Forty per cent of cancers can be attributed to lifestyle factors so swapping some bad habits for healthier ones can help reduce the risk of developing the disease. Smoking increases the risk of at least 14 forms of cancer including lung, bowel, pancreatic and mouth. Cutting down on alcohol, keeping to a healthy weight, avoiding sunburn and being more active can also help reduce the risk of many cancers. Leading a healthy life doesn’t guarantee you won’t get cancer but it can stack the odds in your favour.”

After seeing the alarming ONS figures, Ciarán Devane, chief executive at Macmillan Cancer Support, said: “It is startling that the number of new cases of cancer diagnosed has soared by nearly a fifth in the last ten years. However, it is important to note that this overall figure disguises a wide variation across the cancer types. While it is welcome news that the number of new cases of ovarian and stomach cancer rates have decreased, malignant melanoma is up by a huge 66 per cent. Today’s ONS figures also reveal a worrying gender gap. Cancer affects women more in younger age groups, but men are significantly worse affected over the age of 60. The reasons for this are complex and only partially understood. Further research needs to be carried out to understand these differences better. We are warning that the rising numbers of cancer patients poses a huge challenge for the NHS as it will not be able to cope with the surge in demand unless it puts the necessary plans and resources in place now.”

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