29.11.2023 - One-third of all cancer cases in the Netherlands are caused by an unhealthy lifestyle and living environment. This is evident from new research by TNO, commissioned by the Dutch Cancer Society (KWF Kankerbestrijding). Measures making it easier for people to, among other things, avoid smoking, eat healthily, and protect themselves properly from the sun can prevent up to about 40,000 cancer cases annually.
Most current figures for the Netherlands Smoking remains the leading cause of cancer in the Netherlands, as confirmed by the new figures. Annually, an estimated 19,095 diagnoses (16% of all cancers) can be attributed to smoking. Other significant causes include sun exposure (5%, 6,374 cases per year) and unhealthy diet (5%, 6,452 cases). This particularly involves a lack of fruit, vegetables, and dietary fiber, and too much processed meat.
With this study, TNO and KWF present the most current figures for the Netherlands. Besides lifestyle factors, researchers also looked at environmental factors (such as particulate matter), infections (such as the HPV virus), and reproductive factors (such as not breastfeeding). For all these risk factors, researchers estimated their contribution to the total number of cancer cases. The last time this was mapped was in 2014.
Stronger government policy needed "This study shows that we have an influence on a third of all cancer," observes Carla van Gils, director of KWF. "A significant portion. If we take these results seriously and effectively address the risk factors with targeted prevention policy, it can save up to 40,000 cancer diagnoses annually."
The new cabinet can make the biggest difference, according to KWF. "By introducing proven effective measures such as price increases on tobacco, or a ban on children's marketing for unhealthy food and alcohol, we can prevent many future cancer cases. This is urgently needed, as healthcare is already severely overloaded."
Greatest gain: tobacco deterrence The greatest health gain in the field of cancer? That lies in tobacco deterrence, says KWF. "The figures clearly show this. If we all stop smoking, it will reduce 16% of all cancer. That really makes a difference," says Van Gils. At the same time, it's important to prevent people from starting to smoke. "Recent figures showed that 1 in 5 youths vaped last year, nearly a third smoked cigarettes, and a large part did both. This concerns us. We must prevent young people from coming into contact with products from the tobacco industry. That's why we're working with the Heart Foundation and Lung Fund to achieve a Smoke-Free Generation."
Joining forces KWF is also heavily investing in prevention in other areas. For instance, prevention is one of the core goals of the Dutch Cancer Agenda, which was launched on November 27. In it, KWF works with other partners on national priorities to reduce the impact of cancer on society.
Moreover, KWF is one of the initiators of the Healthy Generation, in which 22 health foundations join forces to ensure that the Dutch youth in 2040 are the healthiest in the world.
"For this, the commitment of all parties is necessary," emphasizes Van Gils. "We call on the government, manufacturers, supermarkets, and media to make the environment in which our children grow up as healthy as possible."