The UK ranks 11th out of 50 countries for rates of breast cancer, with high levels of obesity and a taste for alcohol are fuelling rates among British women, experts claim in a new report.
Overall, the UK comes 22nd for cancers in both sexes while Denmark is the cancer capital of the world, according to the most recent estimates from the World Health Organisation (WHO), for 2008.
Of the top 50 countries worldwide by cancer rate, the UK comes 33rd for male cancers and 12th for female. Rates of cancer overall are higher in men than women, the analysis showed.
On breast cancer, more women per 100,000 develop the disease in the UK (260.5) than in France (254.9), Italy (251.6), Germany (245.7), Sweden (241.2), Switzerland (236) or Spain (187).The highest rates are in Denmark (325.3), New Zealand (287.1) and Ireland (285.1).
Experts believe some of the explanation for Danish data could be down to better diagnosis but noted high rates of smoking among Danish women. The country also has high levels of alcohol consumption.
The World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF), which compiled the league tables from WHO data, said it showed that high-income countries generally have much higher cancer rates than lower income ones.
While this may be down to better diagnosis and data collection, high income countries have higher rates of obesity, drinking and lower levels of exercise.
Many cancers are linked to these lifestyle factors, including those of the mouth and larynx, lung, stomach, pancreas, liver, bowel, breast, prostate and kidney.
Professor Martin Wiseman, medical and scientific adviser for the WCRF, said: “We know that people in high-income countries are more likely to be overweight, to drink a lot of alcohol and to be inactive. When you look at the list, it is clear that the countries that do worse for these factors tend to be nearer the top.”
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 exercise.