The figures, released by the International Agency for Research on Cancer for the year 2012 revealed that 78,935 cases of bowel, breast and womb cancers were diagnosed in 2012.
About 12,000 of these could be prevented if people were more active, according to the scientists.
Dr Rachel Thompson, head of research interpretation at the World Cancer Research fund said "It is worrying. Not only are they (bowel,breast, and womb cancers) related to physical inactivity, they are all related to excess body fats. It does look like lifestyle plays an important part".
Only 36% of British women meet the government's recommended guidelines of at least 30 minutes of moderate activity 5 days a week. After not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight is the best thing to do to reduce the risk of these cancers.
It is estimated that about 12,000 cases of cancer each year could be prevented by simply doing more exercise.
Lifestyle choices are also behind the higher rates of cancer in white women.
The Million Women Study, run by Oxford University, has found that non-white women are less likely to get breast cancer than other ethnic groups. This data, published in the British Journal of Cancer, shows a difference of up to 18% in the risk for cancer, and this difference between the groups studied was almost entirely accounted for by individuals' lifestyles.
Although some of the protective effect comes from breastfeeding for longer and having more children, other factors identified were alcohol consumption, and, again, being overweight.
Julie Sharp, Cancer Research UK's head of health information, said "Women can reduce their risk of breast cancer by cutting down on alcohol, keeping a heathy weight by eating a balanced diet and keeping active".
In a piece published inThe Lancet entitled “Global cancer patterns: causes and prevention”, IARC Director Dr Christopher Wild, and long-time IARC collaborator Dr Paolo Vineis show that in view of the growing global cancer burden, primary prevention is a particularly effective –and probably also cost-effective– approach to curbing the increase: between a third and half of all cancers are preventable on the basis of current knowledge. Global cancer patterns: causes and prevention. Vineis P, Wild CP, The Lancet, Early Online Publication, 16 December 2013 doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(13)62224-2
Most of this prevention comes down to some simple lifestyle choices:
- don't smoke
- reduce alcohol intake
- healthy bodyweight
- regular moderate exercise.
Author: Michael Monk