Cancerous Lifestyles: Warning Over Rise In The Avoidable Killers

Cancers linked to over-indulgence in food, alcohol and the sun are rising steeply, experts warned yesterday. Incidence of mouth, womb and kidney cancers have climbed in Scotland, according to charity Cancer Research UK.

Malignant melanomas of the skin have also risen alarmingly, with rates up 30% since 1995 north of the border. The charity said the increases were worrying as many of the cases could be avoided. Research suggests around half of all cancers could be prevented by lifestyle changes.

Dr Colin Waine, chairman of the National Obesity Forum, said: “People often think about the dangers of obesity being heart disease and stroke, but it is a significant factor in these other cancers as well.”

Overweight and obese women are said to be twice as likely to develop womb cancer as women of a healthy weight. In the decade from 1995 to 2004, incidence of the disease in the Scottish population rose by 27%.

Kidney cancer, for which smoking and excessive weight are key risk factors, also grew more prevalent during the same period. Rates rose by 8% north of the border. Similarly cases of mouth cancer, which mostly affects regular smokers or drinkers, have risen by 6%.

Higher increases in incidence of kidney and mouth cancers have been recorded in the UK as a whole than in Scotland. Statisticians, however, point out the illnesses were already more prevalent in the Scottish population.

Dr Waine said: “I do not think everyone realises the association between obesity and cancer. I think it needs to be known so that people can make rational choices and often the dangers of cancer are quite a motivator.”

Sara Hiom, Cancer Research UK’s director of health information, said that too much sun exposure accounts for the “vast majority” of malignant mela-noma cases. It reported 867 cases in Scotland in 2004 compared to 642 in 1995.