As cancer treatment gets more sophisticated, a diagnosis no longer means a death sentence. But while dying of cancer is less likely, a European study finds that the rate of developing cancer is higher than ever. In Europe, cancer diagnoses climbed 20% from 2.1 million new cases in 2002 to 2.5 million in 2008, according to the study published in the European Journal of Cancer (EJC). Public-health researchers are trying to understand what is causing the increase, pointing to a likely combination of environmental factors (exposure to cancer-causing toxicants, increased radiation) and lifestyle choices (smoking, obesity and inactivity).
Of particular concern was the rise in colon cancer, which now accounts for nearly 14% of all cancer cases in Europe. Since obesity is strongly linked to colon cancer, promoting exercise and reducing excess weight could slow cancer rates, according to a statistical model build by Dr. Esther de Vries from the Department of Public Health at Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, in the same special issue of EJC.
Concerned over your own couch-potato lifestyle? The National Cancer Institute has a comprehensive database of prevention strategies for many types of cancer.