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Healthy lifestyle habits could prevent four out of ten cases of cancer

Queen Letizia was a guest speaker at the 6th annual Madrid Forum Against Cancer on Thursday.
Queen Letizia was a guest speaker at the 6th annual Madrid Forum Against Cancer on Thursday. / EFE
  • A report has been published ahead of World Cancer Day, which falls on Sunday 4 February

A diet rich in vegetables, fibre and fruit and low in red meat; getting regular exercise, not smoking and drinking alcohol in moderation, or preferably not at all. If people followed these recommendations for a healthy lifestyle, four out of ten cases of cancer could be prevented, according to the Spanish Society of Medical Oncology (SEOM).

However, people need to be persuaded to follow this advice, just as in the battle against smoking. The report was published ahead of World Cancer Day, which falls on Sunday 4 February.

“Spain is one of the countries where people smoke the most, despite the anti-tobacco laws,” says Dr Ruth Vera, president of SEOM. Statistics show that nicotine addiction is now 24% in Spain; this is lower than a decade ago, but is still high. “Increasing the price of cigarettes and banning smoking in more places are the two best ways of fighting this addiction,” says Dr Luis Paz-Ares, president of the National Technical Committee of the Spanish Association against Cancer.

Dr Vera also says there is a lack of awareness in Spain that smoking can cause other cancers, such as in the mouth, stomach and oesophagus. Tobacco causes one-third of all tumours.

“A healthy lifestyle is very important, and we also have other preventive tools such as the vaccine against cervical cancer, and screening for breast and colon cancer.

We are also finding out more about the molecular changes associated with the appearance of tumours and there are new drugs to block those changes, as well as to regulate the immune system,” explained Dr Vera during the presentation of the report 2018 Cancer statistics.

This study shows that last year 228,482 new cases were diagnosed, but the number of patients who survive cancer has continually increased in recent years. Nowadays, 53% survive at least five years. “There are more people with cancer because they live longer,” said Dr Vera.

The most common types of cancer (for both sexes) were colorectal (34,331 cases), followed by prostate (30,076), lung (28,370), breast (26,370), bladder (14,677) and stomach (8,284). The incidence in Spain is similar to other European countries. Globally, the most common are colorectal, prostate, lung and breast.

The report shows that cancer is the second most common cause of death in the world, and 8.8 million people died from it in 2015, according to the World Health Organisation. The number of deaths caused by tumours is expected to rise to over 14 million by 2035.

In Spain, within 17 years there will be 315,413 new cases of cancer, according to the WHO. Tumours were also the third cause of hospital stays, after illnesses of the circulatory and respiratory systems. However, figures show that tumours are the principal cause of death in Spanish hospitals (24%).