Frightening new figures unveiled by Cancer Research UK and the UK Association of Cancer Registries show a dramatic rise in life-style related cancers linked to sun bathing, alcohol, smoking and obesity.

According to the charity, cases of melanoma, the most aggressive form of skin cancer, have leapt more than 40% in the last 10 years, while the incidence of mouth, womb and kidney cancer has jumped 23%, 21% and 14%, respectively.

But the charity’s and healthcare professionals’ main message seems to be that many of these cases could be prevented, “if people avoided excessive sun exposure, smoking and obesity and limited their alcohol intake,” explains Lucy Morrish, statistical information manager at CR UK. Furthermore, CR UK claims research indicates that as much as half of all cancers could be prevented through a healthy lifestyle.

Malignant melanoma is now the fast-growing cancer in the UK, it says. Rates are higher in women and have doubled since the mid-80s, but cases have tripled in men, with excessive sun exposure responsible for the vast majority of cases.

Most incidences of oral cancer occur in people who smoke or chew tobacco and regularly drink alcohol, smoking and being overweight are two of the major risk factors for kidney cancer and, although the direct causes of womb cancer are unclear, factors such as being overweight or obese are known to sharply increase a woman’s risk of developing the disease.

Cervical/lung cancers fall

But the figures also reveal success in other areas. A national screening programme has played a significant role in decreasing the rate of cervical cancers, the charity said, while smoking cessation campaigns are helping to decrease cases of lung cancer.

Lowering the incidence of cancer is one of 10 goals CR UK has set itself to achieve by 2020. Other targets include increasing the overall five-year survival rate - currently 49.6% - by two-thirds, making the latest treatment advances available, ensuring that patients get access to the right information, and reducing affluence-related inequalities in both incidence and survival.