Obesity and drinking blamed for breast cancer rates in UK

High levels of obesity and drinking among women are to blame for the UK having one of the worst breast cancer rates in the world, say health experts.

British women are more likely to develop the disease than their counterparts in France, Italy, Germany, Switzerland or Spain, according to estimates by the World Health Organisation.

The UK has the 11th-highest rate for breast cancer out of the world's top 50 countries where cancers are most common.

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Overall, the UK is ranked 22nd for cancers in both sexes, with 266.9 people in every 100,000 developing the disease. Denmark heads the list with 326.1.

Men are more likely to develop cancer than women, although the UK has only the 33rd-highest male cancer rate compared with the 12th-highest female rate.

The World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF), which compiled the cancer league tables, said rich countries generally had much higher cancer rates than poor ones.

"We know that people in high-income countries are more likely to be overweight, to drink a lot of alcohol and to be inactive," said Professor Martin Wiseman, medical and scientific adviser for the WCRF.

"When you look at the list, it is clear that the countries that do worse for these factors tend to be nearer the top.

"The high incidence rates in the UK, Denmark and other high-income countries are not inevitable and lifestyle changes can make a real difference to people's risk."

Prof Wiseman said about a third of the most common cancers in the UK could be prevented by maintaining a healthy weight, good nutrition and doing more exercise.

"The bad news is that around the world, things are heading in the wrong direction," he added.

"The general trend is for people to become more overweight, eat more high-energy foods and become less active."