The Medical Journal of Australia has found that a quarter of cancers could be prevented through diet and exercise. Jen Rosenberg of Fairfax Publication The Age reports:
“A QUARTER of cancers could be prevented by 2025 through diet and exercise alone, saving hundreds of millions of dollars in the cost of treatment, the Medical Journal of Australia has found.
Taking data on projected illness, and coupling it with published findings on the association between food, nutrition and physical activity in the prevention of cancer, the journal’s study found that the incidence of cancer in Australia will rise to 170,000 in the next 13 years, an increase of 60 per cent since 2007.
Intervention to improve health and environmental factors could reduce that by 43,000, or 25 per cent, it says in a report published March 19.
Contributing factors in the nation’s poor health include an increasingly sedentary lifestyle, the increasing prevalence of overweight and obese adults, climbing rates of harmful alcohol consumption, and an unbalanced diet.
Pip Youl, one of the report’s authors and head of research at Cancer Council Queensland, said that less than 10 per cent of Australians ate the recommended five serves of vegetables a day and only 6 per cent ate two or more serves of fruit a day.
”Ways to encourage better eating are things like improving the number of wholegrain cereals and bread, choosing foods that are low in salt, choosing a low-fat diet, particularly diets that are low in saturated fats,” she said. ”One of the key things is teaching children to eat healthily. So, getting them interested in cooking and eating healthy foods will give them a really good start in life and enjoying a healthy life.”
Poor health has become an economic and geographic issue, the study suggesting that ”inequities in cancer outcomes vary with remoteness or area disadvantage” and that ”increasingly the poor are becoming obese faster than the rich”.
With the cost of healthy food higher than that of high-sugar, fat-soaked, nutritionally poor alternatives, Australians on lower incomes are less likely to make healthy food choices.
Programs needed to be designed to accommodate different needs in different regions, Ms Youl said. Even when people know what they need to do to prevent obesity and disease, it is difficult to motivate populations to improve their health and it was incumbent on governments to implement measures and provide support.
Ms Youl said it was critical to have a co-ordinated approach from state and federal governments to spend money on preventive measures to reduce the $3.8 billion a year spent on direct costs to the health system from cancer-related illnesses.
They needed to ”increase the expenditure on preventive health activities, because we know that treating cancer is very expensive, so if we can prevent it before it happens then we’ll certainly save some expenditure on cancer down the track”.
While only 2 per cent of the total health expenditure in 2007-08 was dedicated to preventive services or health promotion, spending more on raising the profile of good nutrition and physical activity would save more than $674 million in 2025, the authors found.”
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