Thursday 22 February 2018

Poor diet giving us sixth highest rate of cancer in world

(Stock photo)
(Stock photo)
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Poor diet and lifestyle habits are pushing up Ireland's cancer rate, which is now the sixth highest in the world, a new study has warned.

We need to consume more fruit and vegetables, high-fibre breakfast cereals and oily fish while cutting down on intake of processed red meats, high fat foods and alcohol.

The warning has emerged in a new study led by researchers at Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) in collaboration with colleagues in Trinity College Dublin, University College Dublin and Queen's University Belfast.

The study, published in the 'Journal of Public Health', looked at data from 184 countries and highlighted how Ireland has the sixth highest overall cancer rate in the world.

The incidence of cancer is also rising faster in Ireland than in most other western European countries. So-called lifestyle-related cancers - including bowel, oesophagus, breast, prostate and lung - are particularly common.

An analysis of our dietary, nutritional and lifestyle risk factors for cancer revealed high intakes of poor-quality processed meats, animal fats and alcohol.

We still have a low intake of foods and nutrients which are believed to protect against cancer, including fruit and vegetables, fibre-rich breakfast cereals, fish, low-fat dairy products, folate and vitamin D.


Our bad eating habits are added to by low physical activity levels and increasing obesity rates, all of which heighten our risk. "Our findings highlight a very compelling and urgent need for dietary changes in this country," Dr Daniel McCartney of the School of Biological Sciences at DIT said.

"To help prevent cancer, Irish people should focus on consuming more fruit and vegetables, high-fibre breakfast cereals and oily fish; and on cutting down their intake of processed red meats like sausages, other high fat foods, and alcohol.

"This research indicates that poor diet and lifestyle are implicated in Ireland's spiralling cancer rates.

"It emphasises that while the Irish health system has made great strides in treating cancer, complementary policy and funding initiatives to prevent cancer are now required.

"Without such initiatives, the human and economic costs of cancer to Ireland will continue."

The study comes amid criticism of the failure by the Government to provide any targeted funding for the national plan to tackle obesity, which was launched in recent months.

Obesity expert Prof Donal O'Shea, who has highlighted the risks of being overweight with a greater chance of developing cancer, has been particularly critical of the neglect of the plan.

Irish Independent

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