Cancer is one of the world’s deadliest and most-feared diseases. Accounting for 28% of deaths, it is the second-deadliest disease in the UK, behind only heart disease, and the NHS say that over a third of us will develop some form of cancer in our lifetime.

However, millions of pounds have been spent on cancer research in recent years, which has helped us to not only improve survival rates, but to become more aware of how to prevent it, too. This is important, as a whopping 38% of cancers are preventable, so gaining a knowledge of the leading factors that cause cancer will help to reduce your chances of getting the deadly disease.

According to statistics from Cancer Research UK, these are the biggest causes of cancer in the UK:


Smoking is the leading cause of preventable cancers, responsible for 15% of cases. The chemicals in cigarette smoke enter our bloodstream when we breathe it in, which is why smoking is so bad for your health. It causes a great number of different diseases in this way, including 15 different types of cancer. The chemicals damage our DNA and harm the core genes that defend us from cancer, making us more susceptible to cancers such as lung cancer, bladder cancer, bowel cancer and leukaemia.

UV Radiation

UV radiation is the main cause of skin cancer, being responsible for a staggering 86% of cases. This is mostly because of the damage done to the DNA in our skin cells by the UV radiation we are exposed to from the sun. While you understandably will be looking forward to sunbathing on your holidays, you should be careful that you don’t spend too much time in the sun.

Make sure that you wear a sunscreen that provides a sufficient level of protection, and occasionally move into the shade away from the sun’s rays. You should also look to cover your skin on sunny days when you can; try to wear long sleeve shirts and always wear a hat with a wide brim.


Obesity is another one of the leading causes of cancer in the UK, being the cause of 6% of cases. It is widely known that the UK currently has an obesity problem. Latest figures from the NHS show that 26% of adults were classified as obese in 2016, which is a 15% increase from 1993. Knowing these statistics, it is no surprise that so many cases of cancer are caused by obesity. Try to ensure that you regularly get plenty of exercise, keep your portion sizes sensible, and regulate the amount of junk food you eat.


Excessive alcohol consumption has been known as a cause of cancer for 30 years now and today, is the cause of 3% of cancer cases in the UK. Many of us love a good drink on a night out, but too many can have a bigger impact than just an increase in hangovers. You should drink no more than 14 units of alcohol per week on a regular basis, which equates to approximately 6 pints of 4% lager. So, if you think you might be drinking more than this, try to reign in how much you drink and how often.

This should not be construed as advice and is for information purposes, only.