Easy lifestyle changes could prevent 3,500 cancer cases
More than 3,500 cases of cancer a year in Northern Ireland could be prevented through simple lifestyle changes.
A study carried out by Cancer Research UK (CRUK) has revealed that 38% of all cancers diagnosed here each year could have been avoided.
It highlights the well-known dangers of smoking, with almost half of all cases of cancer each year put down to tobacco.
However, it has also raised the risk of developing the killer disease from being overweight and obese - with 572 new cancer cases attributed to this.
Obesity causes 13 types of cancer, including bowel, breast, womb and kidney, and the results suggest that more than one in 20 cancer cases could be prevented by maintaining a healthy weight.
The figures come weeks after the charity came under fire for its advertising campaign encouraging people to lose weight and protect themselves from cancer.
It has now called for a ban on junk food adverts before the 9pm watershed.
The third biggest preventable cause of cancer in Northern Ireland is infections, which cause around 380 cases a year.
Most of these cases are linked to Human Papillomavirus (HPV) and H. Pylori.
The CRUK study has examined lesser known causes including a lack of fibre in your diet, not enough exercise, air pollution and processed meat. According to the charity, they account for 612 cases of cancer in Northern Ireland each year.
A lack of fibre is responsible for 332 of these cases - more than the 327 cases of cancer as a result of alcohol.
Eating too much processed meat is to blame for 159 new cases of cancer every year.
Margaret Carr from CRUK said: "These research findings are startling in that, for the first time, we can see how many cases of cancer could be prevented by things like not smoking and keeping a healthy weight.
"It's clear from this research that obesity is a major problem."
Anna Gavin, director of the Northern Ireland Cancer Registry, which provided data for the research project, said: "We know so much about cancer, the big risk factors of smoking and diet, and the reductions that can come about by taking exercise, taking part in bowel and cervical screening when invited and having vaccinations for HPV."
Northern Ireland's chief medical officer Dr Michael McBride called on people to take more responsibility for their health.
"Making simple lifestyle changes can have a huge impact on long term health," he said.