Healthy living

British women more likely to get cancer than Europeans

British women more likely to get cancer than other Europeans Fuelled by obesity and alcohol

Women in the UK are 17 per cent more likely to develop cancer during their lifetime compared to their European counterparts, experts have warned.

British women have a one in four chance of developing any type of cancer by the age of 75, compared to about one in five for women living elsewhere in Europe.

The latest estimates have been compiled by the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) using figures from the World Health Organisation.

British women are also more likely to die from cancer by the age of 75, with 10.6 per cent dying from the disease compared to 9.4 per cent in Europe.

Experts say that lifestyle factors such as alcohol consumption and obesity may partly explain the higher cancer rates seen in British women.

Dr Rachel Thompson, deputy head of science for the WCRF, said: “On average, women in the UK are more likely to be overweight and to drink more alcohol than the European average and this is a concern because both these factors increase cancer risk.

“They are not the only reasons for the differing cancer rates, but there is now very strong evidence that women who drink a lot of alcohol are at increased risk of developing the disease and that excess body fat is also an important risk factor."

Breastfeeding has been shown to help protect against breast cancer, but only a small number of women in the UK breast-feed their babies exclusively for the first six months. This may also help to explain the higher cancer rates in British women, she added.

However, the news was better for British men, as they have a 27.8 per cent risk of being diagnosed with cancer by the age of 75 compared to a 29.5 per cent risk for men in Europe. They are also 6 per cent less likely to die from the disease.

The WCRF estimates that 80,000 cases of cancer in the UK could be prevented each year if people adopted healthier lifestyles including being more physically active, having a better diet, maintaining a healthy weight and drinking less alcohol.

This article was published on Mon 1 August 2011

Image © Arto -

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