Australian research highlights importance of diet in reducing number of cancer cases

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 19th March 2012

Research published today in the Medical Journal of Australia claims that almost 43,000 cancers could be prevented in the year 2025 through dietary improvements and increases in physical activity alone.

Associate Professor Peter Baade from Cancer Council Queensland, and co-authors, sought to estimate the number of cancers that could be prevented by improvements in diet and physical activity.

The Medical Journal of Australia is a publication of the Australian Medical Association.

Previous international research has estimated that 25 per cent of cancers can be prevented through changes to diet and physical activity.

Using current trends in population growth and ageing, the researchers estimated that there would be about 170,000 cancer diagnoses in 2025 — a 60 per cent increase on the 2007 annual figure.

They then applied the published estimates on the association between food, nutrition and physical activity in preventing cancer.

According to the research, this reduction of 43,000 cancers would equate to savings of AU$674 million in 2025 (based on 2000 – 2001 treatment costs ignoring inflation). The researchers said their figures highlighted the need for governments, doctors and researchers to act now to reduce the future burden of cancer, the authors wrote.

The researchers found that bowel cancer had the greatest potential for prevention through diet and activity by 2025, with an estimated 10,049 cases able to be prevented, followed by female breast cancer with an estimated 7,273 cases prevented.

The researchers said these estimates provided governments and policymakers with the quantitative evidence required to put preventive measures in place.

The authors wrote, “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.”