About 10,000 cases of breast and bowel cancer could be prevented every year in Britain if people quickened their walking pace and became more physically active, researchers say. Scientists believe that up to 4,600 bowel cancer cases and about 5,500 breast cancer cases could be avoided by more brisk walking and other forms of moderate activity, which causes the heart to beat faster and increases breathing.
Physical activity is also known to reduce the risk of endometrial cancer, which affects the womb, as well as helping people trim waistlines. Being overweight or obese is a known risk factor for several types of cancer, as well as heart disease and type 2 diabetes, according to the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF).
Rachel Thompson, deputy head of science for the fund, said: “You don’t have to go to the gym every day to benefit. “You can reduce your cancer risk just by making small changes and this is highlighted by the fact that so many cancer cases could be prevented through something as simple as brisk walking. “By taking up walking as a hobby or even walking to the shops instead of taking the bus or car, people can make a real difference to their health.” Dr Thompson said that there was “a lot of work to do” in raising awareness because few people were aware of the link between exercise and cancer risk. Each year, about 13,000 people in Britain die of breast cancer and 16,000 of bowel cancer.
The WCRF recommends being physically active for at least half an hour a day. However, according to government figures, only 37 per cent of men and 25 per cent of women manage this.
The latest figures came from a WCRF report that suggested up to 40 per cent of all cancers could be prevented by adjusting lifestyle factors such as losing weight, cutting down consumption of red meat or alcohol and doing more exercise.
Previously studies have shown that moderate exercise can have a protective effect against breast and bowel cancer and can reduce the risk of lung cancer by as much as 40 per cent.