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World Cancer Day – WHO stresses importance of physical activity for cancer prevention


04 Feb 2011


Health & Consumers
Innovation & Enterprise

In a new set of global recommendations on physical activity for health, WHO offers guidance to governments on the dose–response relationship between the frequency, duration, intensity, type and total amount of physical activity needed to prevent noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) in various age groups.

Levels of physical inactivity are rising in many countries in the world, with major implications for people’s general health and the prevalence of NCDs (such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer) and their risk factors (such as high blood pressure and blood sugar, and overweight).

Physical inactivity is estimated to be the primary cause of about 21–25% of breast and colon cancer cases, 27% of diabetes and 30% of ischaemic heart disease in the world. In the 53 countries in the WHO European Region, NCDs cause 86% of deaths.

“These diseases are largely preventable through effective interventions that tackle four common risk factors: tobacco use, unhealthy diet, physical inactivity and the harmful use of alcohol,” says Dr Gauden Galea, Director of the Division of Noncommunicable Diseases and Health Promotion at the WHO Regional Office for Europe.

On World Cancer Day (4 February 2011), the world’s cancer control community promotes preventive measures that can reduce the burden of cancer and potentially save millions of lives. This year, 4 February is also an important milestone in the preparations for the United Nations high-level meeting on the prevention and control of NCDs, to be held in New York, USA, on 19–20 September 2011.

The high-level meeting will be a historic opportunity to secure renewed global commitment to tackling cancer, cardiovascular diseases, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes, and to push for the implementation of the WHO Global Strategy for the Prevention and Control of Noncommunicable Diseases and its Action Plan for 2008–2013.

In addition, health ministers and other stakeholders will gather in Moscow, Russian Federation, on 28–29 April 2011 for the first global ministerial conference on healthy lifestyles and noncommunicable disease control.

French, German and Russian versions of this press release will soon be available on the WHO Regional Office for Europe web site (

For further information and interview requests, please contact:

Ms Tina Kiaer
Communication Officer, WHO Regional Office for Europe
Tel.: +45 3917 12 50     

Dr Joao Breda
Regional Adviser, Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity, WHO Regional Office for Europe
Tel: +45 3917 1620

Useful links

WHO headquarters

Global health risks report
WHO headquarters, 2009

Global recommendations on physical activity for health
WHO headquarters, 2010


Physical activity and health in Europe: evidence for action
WHO/Europe, 2006

International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC)

NCD Alliance