An estimated 13,000 cancer deaths could be prevented if the government met a World Health Organisation (WHO) target, campaigners said.
The Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) and World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) made the claim as a survey showed a third of Britons still believe that developing cancer is due to fate.
The two groups said around 157,000 people die of cancer every year in the UK - but 13,000 could be saved if the nation met the WHO’s ‘25 by 25’ target - reducing premature deaths by 25% by 2025.
The health groups are using World Cancer Day, Monday February 4, to raise people’s awareness of how to reduce their cancer risk.
A YouGov survey showed that 32% of respondents believe getting cancer is largely to due to fate and 28% think that, aside from not smoking, there is little that can be done to prevent cancer.
Dr Kate Allen, WCRF executive director of science and public affairs, said: “These results are a real concern because they show that a significant proportion of people don’t realise that there’s a lot they can do to reduce their risk of cancer.
“By eating healthily, being physically active and keeping to a healthy weight, we estimate that about a third of the most common cancers could be prevented.
“Everyone has a role to play in preventing cancer but governments and health professionals are key to raising awareness and making it easier for individuals to change their lifestyle habits.”
Currently, 7.6 million people die from cancer worldwide every year, of which, 4 million die prematurely (aged 30 to 69).
UICC and IARC estimate that 1.5 million lives could be saved if urgent action is taken to raise awareness about cancer and develop practical strategies to address the disease.
Otherwise, by 2025, this trend is projected to increase to six million premature cancer deaths per year.
“The estimate of 1.5 million lives lost per year to cancer that could be prevented must serve to galvanise our efforts in implementing the World Health Organisation’s ‘25 by 25’ target,” said Dr Christopher Wild, director of IARC.
“There is now a need for a global commitment to help drive advancements in policy and encourage implementation of comprehensive National Cancer Control Plans
“If we are to succeed in this, we have a collective responsibility to support low- and middle-income countries who are tackling a cancer epidemic with insufficient resources.”
Cary Adams, CEO of UICC said: “This World Cancer Day UICC, its members and partners urge everyone from individuals to governments to take a stand against damaging myths on cancer.
“By truly understanding this deadly disease, governments can develop appropriate strategies to reduce premature deaths and reach the WHO ‘25 by 25’ goal.
“The figures today announced by IARC and UICC reveal the fundamental human value of achieving this target - 1.5 million people saved from an early death due to cancer is equal to the entire populations of Philadelphia, Auckland, Barcelona or West Yorkshire each and every year.”
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt said: “Earlier diagnosis is key to improving survival rates from cancer which is why our Be Clear on Cancer campaigns aim to raise awareness about the symptoms of cancer and give people the confidence to tell their doctor if they think anything is wrong.
“Our cancer strategy is backed by £750 million over four years to tackle cancer, giving patients the best chances of being diagnosed earlier and getting the best treatment and care available.
“I am committed to improving survival rates, saving an additional 5,000 lives per year and making sure that cancer survivors have as good a quality of life as possible.”