Eating more, drinking more, exercising less – how pandemic is increasing our cancer risk

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The pandemic is causing more of us to eat more, move less and indulge in extra glasses of wine and beer, new research shows.

ne in three people have gained weight since the start of the pandemic and a quarter have put on five kilograms or more.

People have been piling on weight, partly due to becoming more sedentary,

Almost two out of every five claim they are more stationary and just over a third say they are less active or take less exercise than they did before the pandemic, the research from the Marie Keating Foundation reveals.

A quarter of adults also claim to be sitting for more than six hours a day – the recommended average is less than four hours daily.

One in 10 admit to exercising a maximum of 60 minutes per week, although the recommended average is more than 150 minutes weekly.

We are also more lax with our diet – and gorging more on junk food. Some 29pc of people say they are snacking more at home and 27pc are eating more sugary foods like biscuits and chocolate since the beginning of the pandemic.

When it comes to alcohol, a quarter of all adults claim they are drinking the same amount as they were before the Covid-19 pandemic.

But one in eight admit they are drinking more now than they were before.

Smoking levels have also been on the increase, with two-thirds saying they are lighting up more each day than they were before the pandemic.

“In fact, of those who smoke, 44pc have said that the number of cigarettes they use a day has increased by at least 6-10 cigarettes, while as many as 13pc of smokers say that the number of cigarettes they smoke each day has increased by as many as 20 or more,” according to the research.

The Marie Keating Foundation is now encouraging the public to start 2021 the right way by ensuring they get in the recommended 10,000 steps a day for 20 consecutive days by walking, jogging or running. The Your Health: Your Choice Challenge costs €20 to enter and each participant will also get a 21-day nutrition, stretching and warm-up plan.

A spokesman for the organisation said that “like many people, you may feel that cancer is down to bad luck or genes. While this can often be the case, four in 10 cancers could be prevented if we made changes to seven aspects of our everyday life”.

Scientists estimate we can help prevent four out of 10 cancers by: not smoking; eating a healthy diet and being a healthy weight; being physically active; avoiding too much sun; limiting how much alcohol you drink; taking up cancer-screening services; and being up to date on all recommended vaccinations, such as HPV

“While positive strides have been made in the search for solutions to the Covid-19 pandemic, vaccination against other preventable diseases such as HPV still needs to be prioritised. In Ireland, HPV infection caused up to 420 cancer cases in men and women each year between 2010 and 2014 with as many as 130 people dying in Ireland each year from HPV-related cancers.”

Despite this, 25pc said they were not aware the HPV vaccine can help protect against 90pc of high-risk strains of HPV, which can develop into cervical and other cancers, according to the new research carried out by the Marie Keating Foundation.

Liz Yeates, CEO of the Marie Keating Foundation said: “Cervical cancer, which is predominantly caused by HPV, is the one cancer the world can eliminate. Furthermore, the World Health Organisation recently launched a global initiative aimed at eliminating cervical cancer by 2030 by focusing on prevention through HPV vaccination and screening and treatment of pre-cancerous legions.

“It is now time for Ireland to develop a HPV elimination strategy to achieve the goals and targets set by the WHO strategy. By the year 2030, all countries can achieve 90pc HPV vaccination coverage, 70pc screening coverage, and 90pc access to treatment for cervical pre-cancer and cancer, including access to palliative care.”

Online Editors

Source: Irish News