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New DIT research shows need to change diet and lifestyle in Ireland to prevent cancer

Posted: 11 November, 2016

A new Irish study spearheaded by researchers at DIT in collaboration with colleagues in Trinity College Dublin, University College Dublin and Queen’s University Belfast has highlighted the critical role played by poor diet and lifestyle in Ireland’s very high cancer rates.

‌The study, which analysed data from 184 countries worldwide provided by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, was published in the Journal of Health last week. It reveals that Ireland has the sixth highest overall cancer rates in the world, with “lifestyle-related” cancers (i.e. those of the colon, oesophagus, breast, prostate and lung) being especially common. It also highlights the fact that cancer incidence is rising faster in Ireland than in most other western European countries.

The findings reveal high intakes of poor-quality processed meats, animal fats and alcohol in Ireland; all of which are associated with increased cancer risk. Furthermore, they show a low intake of foods and nutrients that are thought to protect against cancer, such as fruit and vegetables, fibre-rich breakfast cereals, fish, low-fat dairy products, folate and vitamin D. The study also highlights that these poor dietary behaviours are superimposed on low physical activity levels and escalating obesity rates amongst the Irish population; factors which exacerbate their cancer-promoting impact.

Lead author Dr Daniel McCartney of the School of Biological Sciences at DIT explained to LMFM Radio (starts 47.20) earlier this week, “There is pretty much incontrovertible evidence now that a high intake of fruit and vegetables is protective against many cancers… The advice we should give to people is to just increase intake of fruit and vegetables, along with oily fish, and a good intake of low-fat dairy produce, particularly the fortified varieties that have added vitamins and minerals.”

This research indicates that poor diet and lifestyle are implicated in Ireland’s spiralling cancer rates. It emphasises that while the Irish health system has made great strides in treating cancer, complimentary policy and funding initiatives to prevent cancer are now required.

This research study was featured in The Irish Independent last week, and Daniel McCartney was interviewed on LMFM, Highland Radio, Tipp FM and KFM Kildare.