Australian study: Better diet, exercise could prevent 43,000 cancers and save $674 million

March 19, 2012 By Justin Norrie, The Conversation
With better diet and exercise, thousands of Australians could avoid cancer. Credit: AAP/Tracey Nearmy

Governments “must act now” to avert tens of thousands of cancer cases – and millions in medical bills – with policies that will improve diet and exercise among Australians, researchers say.

Scientists from the Viertel Centre for Research in Control, at Cancer Council Queensland, estimate that a quarter of all cancer cases could be prevented if Australians adopted healthier lifestyles.

Using trends in population growth and aging, they forecast that incidence of cancer will rise to about 170,000 in the next 13 years, which is a 60% increase from 2007. Previous research has found that 25% of cancers can be avoided through changes to and – or about 43,000 cases by 2025.

This would equate to savings in medical costs of $674 million in that year alone, based on 2000-2001 treatment costs, and ignoring inflation, the researchers said.

Their findings are published in today’s issue of the Medical Journal of Australia.

Associate Professor Peter Baade, the Manager of the Descriptive Epidemiology Research Program at the Viertel Centre for Research in Cancer Control, said that changes to diet and activity would have the greatest impact on bowel cancer, averting an estimated 10,049 cases, and could also prevent 7,273 cases of female breast cancer.

“Latest trend estimates suggest that more of the Australian population is sedentary than ever before, with percentages increasing from 31.5% in 2001 to 35.2% in 2007-08. Similarly, the prevalence of overweight and obesity in adults aged 18 years and over increased from 56.3% in 1995 to 61.4% in 2007-08,” the authors wrote in their paper. They also said that only 8.8% of Australians ate the recommended amount of vegetables – five serves per day.

The figures provided governments with the evidence they needed to act, they said.

“Just over 2% of Australia’s total health expenditure in 2007-08 was spent on preventive services or health promotion. When compared with the costs of treatment, prevention efforts in the area of nutrition and physical activity can be a very cost-effective investment for governments.”

Governments “at all levels must act now, and act vigorously, in order to reduce the significant human and financial burden of cancer in the future”.

In 2010, cancer accounted for about 19% of Australia’s disease burden, as measured by financial cost, mortality and a range of other factors. Australians pay about $3.8 billion per year in direct health system costs.

Tim Crowe, an Associate Professor in Nutrition at Deakin University, said that cancer was a “big killer of Australians, yet it has a very large preventable component. The lifestyle estimates used in this paper come from the largest ever report into the role of nutrition and physical activity in the prevention of cancer and represent the best quality, most credible and up-to-date source of information available.

“Staying physically active, eating plenty of unprocessed foods high in fibre, drinking alcohol within current guidelines, cutting back on red meat (especially processed meat), and keeping body weight in check, can each dramatically cut a person’s risk of being diagnosed with cancer – especially the most common cancers in Australians of colorectal and breast cancer.

“All of these factors are in an individual’s personal ability to control with any support the government can provide in achieving this goals to be welcomed.”

Explore further: Most authoritative ever report on bowel cancer and diet: Links with meat and fibre confirmed

Related Stories

Most authoritative ever report on bowel cancer and diet: Links with meat and fibre confirmed

May 24, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- The most authoritative ever report on bowel cancer risk has confirmed that red and processed meat increase risk of the disease and concluded that the evidence that foods containing fibre protect against ...

Eating more dairy linked to $2 billion in healthcare savings

December 8, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- At least two billion dollars could be slashed from the annual healthcare budget if Australians increased their dairy intake, according to a new study.

Processed meat may increase pancreatic cancer risk

January 13, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- Eating too much processed meat may increases the risk of pancreatic cancer, according to new research published in the British Journal of Cancer.

Poor public awareness of bowel cancer

August 23, 2011
Britons have very low awareness of the signs and symptoms of bowel cancer – the third most common cancer in the UK and second largest cause of cancer deaths each year, new research shows.

Poor men more likely to die from bowel cancer

November 7, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- Deprived men are more likely to die from bowel cancer than men from the most affluent section of society, new research presented at the NCRI Cancer Conference in Liverpool this week shows.

Recommended for you

Single blood test screens for eight cancer types

January 18, 2018
Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center researchers developed a single blood test that screens for eight common cancer types and helps identify the location of the cancer.

These foods may up your odds for colon cancer

January 18, 2018
(HealthDay)—Chowing down on red meat, white bread and sugar-laden drinks might increase your long-term risk of colon cancer, a new study suggests.

The pill lowers ovarian cancer risk, even for smokers

January 18, 2018
(HealthDay)—It's known that use of the birth control pill is tied to lower odds for ovarian cancer, but new research shows the benefit extends to smokers or women who are obese.

How cancer metastasis happens: Researchers reveal a key mechanism

January 18, 2018
Cancer metastasis, the migration of cells from a primary tumor to form distant tumors in the body, can be triggered by a chronic leakage of DNA within tumor cells, according to a team led by Weill Cornell Medicine and Memorial ...

Researchers find a way to 'starve' cancer

January 18, 2018
Researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) have demonstrated for the first time that it is possible to starve a tumor and stop its growth with a newly discovered small compound that blocks uptake of the vital ...

Modular gene enhancer promotes leukemia and regulates effectiveness of chemotherapy

January 18, 2018
Every day, billions of new blood cells are generated in the bone marrow. The gene Myc is known to play an important role in this process, and is also known to play a role in cancer. Scientists from the German Cancer Research ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.