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One-third of the cancer cases in the Netherlands are caused by unhealthy lifestyles and living conditions, according to research by the TNO institute. And this means some 40,000 cases of cancer a year could be prevented if people lived healthier lives, says cancer charity KWF Kankerbestrijding. 

The figures are based on statistics from 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic, when there were fewer diagnoses because of pressure on hospitals dealing with Covid cases.

Smoking remains the leading cause of cancer, accounting for over 19,000 cases or 16% of the total. Some 5% of diagnoses follow exposure to the sun and 5% through unhealthy diets, such as eating too much processed meat and not enough vegetables. 

“You can do something about it,” charity director Carla van Gils told NOS radio. “The most important things are not to smoke, to eat well and be sensible about sunlight.”

The government in particular can do more to help by reducing access to cigarettes. “In addition, 80% of the food in our supermarkets is unhealthy and that should be reversed so it is easier to make healthy choices,” she said. The KWF also wants a ban on advertising alcohol and unhealthy food. 

The charity is also concerned about the rise in vaping among youngsters. “We have to make sure they don’t come into contact with tobacco industry products,” Van Gils said. 

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