Healthier lifestyles and better diets could prevent up to 2.8 million cases of cancer each year, the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) said yesterday, calling on governments to "avoid a public health disaster."
The number of global cancers has increased by a fifth in less than a decade to around 12 million new cases a year, and along with other chronic diseases like heart and lung disease and diabetes are the world's biggest health challenges.
Global health experts say many deaths from chronic diseases, including around a third of all common cancers, could be prevented by curbing excessive alcohol intake, improving diets, discouraging smoking and promoting more physical activity.
But these measures often need government action such as taxation, regulation and advertising curbs, bringing politicians into conflict with tobacco, food and alcohol industries.
According to WCRF's medical and scientific adviser, "People are still unaware that risk factors such as alcohol and obesity affect cancer risk, while at the same time, from television advertising to the pricing of food, our society works in a way that discourages people from adopting healthy habits."
Chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes and respiratory diseases kill 36 million people a year, according to World Health Organization. Over the next 20 years, this epidemic is projected to accelerate and that by 2030, the number of deaths from such diseases could reach 52 million a year.
A United Nations meeting is scheduled for September 19 and 20 to discuss the threat to global health.
Yet there are already fears the summit could be ineffective, with major rich-world players such as the United States, Europe and Japan reluctant to commit to taxes, regulations and targets for reducing the burden of these diseases.
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