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London - Sunbathing has been blamed for a massive surge in cancer rates over the past ten years.
Cancers caused by unhealthy lifestyles, such as drinking and smoking, have seen a rise of up to two-thirds in the last decade, official figures show.
Cases of malignant melanoma – the deadliest form of skin cancer, which affects many young people – rose more than any other type in the past decade.
The surge is in part due to people’s ‘choice of clothing’ and failure to cover up in the sun, leaving them exposed to harmful UV rays, according to the Office for National Statistics.
Lung cancer and other forms linked to smoking have also gone up, along with oral and kidney cancers, which can be triggered by alcohol. Overall, two out of five cases of cancer are blamed on poor lifestyle, with about a quarter of breast cancers attributed to lifestyle and environmental factors.
The ONS report shows the number of cases of malignant melanoma soared by 66 per cent between 2002 and 2011. In 2002 there were about 6,700 cases diagnosed in England, but by 2011 there were 11,100.
Nearly 85,000 non-melanoma skin cancers – also driven by sun exposure – were diagnosed in England in 2011.
‘These increases are considered to be due to altered patterns of behaviour in recent decades, such as a choice of clothing and recreational sunbathing,’ says the ONS.
There were 7,000 cases of kidney cancer – which is linked to drinking – in 2011, compared with 5,000 cases in 2002, and about 6,000 oral cancers.
The report found that 27 per cent of cases of breast cancer in women are linked to lifestyle and environmental factors – such as alcohol consumption, obesity, lack of physical activity, and hormonal and reproductive factors.
In 2011, 41,523 English women were diagnosed with the disease and it is the most common cancer in women accounting for 30 per cent of cases.
Prostate cancer was the most common type in men, with 35,567 cases in 2011 accounting for a quarter.
The rate of lung cancer in women is fast catching up with men as older women who started smoking since the 1970s develop the disease. The number of men diagnosed was 19,173 in 2011 – a fall of 11 per cent since 2002. In women, cases rose by 15 per cent over the period, to 15,675.
‘While men remain more likely to smoke than women, the gap has narrowed’ said the ONS report.
Women tended to be diagnosed with cancer at younger ages than men, with breast cancer responsible for 44 per cent of all cancers among women aged 25-59 years.
In older age groups men were more likely to be diagnosed and overall, cancer was more prevalent among men than women.
Nick Ormiston-Smith, of Cancer Research UK, said ‘Every year, around 275,000 people are diagnosed with cancer in England. The biggest risk factor is simply getting older.
‘But 40 percent of cancers can be attributed to lifestyle factors. Cutting down on alcohol, keeping a healthy weight, avoiding sunburn and being more active can help reduce the risk.’
Ciarán Devane, chief executive of 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 this overall figure disguises a wide variation across the cancer types.
‘The 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 only partially understood.’ - Daily Mail