British women are nearly a fifth more likely to develop cancer at some point during their lives than their European counterparts, with lifestyle factors such as obesity and alcohol consumption likely to be partly responsible, a cancer charity has said.
The World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF), which campaigns on cancer and lifestyle issues, said data showed women in the UK had a 25.1% chance of developing any type of cancer by the time they reached 75, as against 21.4% of women elsewhere in Europe.
The study is based on figures compiled by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, part of the UN's World Health Organisation (WHO).
The WCRF, which estimates that about 80,000 UK cancer cases could be prevented each year through physical activity, better diet, lower alcohol use and reduced obesity, said it believed similar lifestyle factors played a role in these statistics.
Earlier this year, a study in the Lancet found that British women had the highest average body mass index among 19 western European nations, of 26.9. This figure, which compares weight against height, counts as overweight by WHO guidelines.
Various studies have also indicated that British women tend to drink more than those in many other European countries, particularly younger women, where the prevalence of diseases associated with alcohol abuse has soared.
Dr Rachel Thompson of the WCRF said alcohol and obesity formed "one of the big public health challenges we face today". She said: "They are not the only reasons for the differing cancer rates, but there is now very strong evidence that women who drink a lot of alcohol are at increased risk of developing the disease and that excess body fat is also an important risk factor."
Ciarán Devane, chief executive of Macmillan Cancer Support, said the WCRF figures were "very worrying".
He added: "Leading a healthy, active lifestyle and eating a diet of fresh fruit, vegetables and foods that are whole grain and also limiting alcohol intake may reduce the risk of getting cancer and cancer recurrence. However, it's important to remember that cancer can also be caused by many other factors such as age, lifestyle habits and genetic make up.
"The number of people who will get cancer is now well past one in three, and there are many more people with cancer today than there were 10 years ago. By making small adjustments to their diet and lifestyles both British men and women can go a long way to helping us tackle this ever growing issue."