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Many cancers could be prevented across the globe: Landmark report

The Clocktowers clock

Friday 27 February 2009 11:40am

Comprehensive, evidence-based recommendations for all levels of society

The number of cancer cases world-wide could be significantly reduced through some relatively straightforward policies and actions, according to a major new international report by the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF).

The WCRF’s Policy and Action for Cancer Prevention report estimates the extent to which cancers may be prevented by modifying diet and exercise. Among its findings was that around 43 per cent of colon cancer cases and 42 per cent of breast cancer cases in the UK could be prevented in this way.

University of Otago Professor Jim Mann was the Australasian representative on the landmark report’s panel of 23 world experts.

After undertaking what is believed to be the most comprehensive review of the evidence for how policy changes and interventions influence the behaviours that affect cancer risk, the panel came up with 48 recommendations.

The recommendations are spread across different groups in society to follow, including multinational bodies; civil society organisations; government; industry; media; schools; workplaces and institutions; health and other professionals; and people as members of communities and families and as individuals.

The recommendations include:

  • Schools should actively encourage physical activity and provide healthy food for children.
  • Schools, workplaces and institutions should not have unhealthy foods available in vending machines.
  • Governments should require widespread walking and cycling routes to encourage physical activity.
  • Governments should incorporate UN recommendations on breastfeeding into law.
  • The food and drinks industry should make public health an explicit priority at all stages of production.
  • Industry should give a higher priority for goods and services that encourage people to be active, particularly young people.
  • Health professionals should take a lead in giving the public information about public health, including cancer prevention.
  • People should use independent nutrition guides and food labels to make sure the food they buy for their family is healthy.

Professor Mann says adopting the recommendations, which have been endorsed by the World Health Organization, might be expected to help achieve a radical reduction in the risk of cancer, obesity, heart disease and diabetes.

"These recommendations are particularly relevant in New Zealand at a time when the new government is making decisions about policies relating to public health," he says.

Further information

Professor Jim Mann
Professor of Human Nutrition and Medicine

The report can be viewed at:

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