One third of the total disease burden in Australia could be prevented by people quitting smoking, getting active, losing weight and eating more fruit – a new AIHW study has found.

The Australian Burden of Disease Study: Impact and causes of illness and death in Australia 2011 was released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

The report confirms cancer remains the leading cause of total disease burden in Australia, with about 31 per cent of all disease burden linked to modifiable risk factors.

Cancer Council Queensland spokesperson Katie Clift says the top risk factor contributing to the burden of cancer nationally is tobacco use.

“Physical inactivity, high body mass, alcohol use and a diet low in fruit are among the top five modifiable risk factors contributing to the burden of cancer,” she says.

“We know up to a third of all cancers are preventable through simple lifestyle changes including maintaining a healthy weight, eating a healthy diet, limiting alcohol and being active.”

Katie says more than 26,000 Queenslanders are diagnosed with cancer each year and about 8600, or a third, of the cases are preventable.

“These results are a wake-up call for all of us to do what we can to avoid preventable chronic disease,” she says.

“Queenslanders are encouraged to take steps to quit smoking, reduce alcohol intake, be physically active and eat a balanced diet for optimum health and wellbeing long-term.”

The AIHW report also examined diet choices, finding a diet low in fruit and vegetables contributed more to death and disease than a diet high in saturated fat, sweetened beverages and sodium.

“This report reveals the significant impact that simple dietary changes can have on overall disease burden and personal health,” Katie says.

“The evidence clearly confirms that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can improve overall wellbeing and reduce the risk of a range of preventable chronic diseases, including some cancers.”

Katie says it’s crucial for Queenslanders to enjoy a wide variety of nutritious foods from the five recommended food groups every day.

“Eat plenty of vegetables, fruit, grain foods, lean meats and poultry, legumes and beans, and milk, yoghurt and cheese,” she says.

“It’s important to limit intake of foods containing saturated fat, added salt, added sugars and alcohol for overall health and happiness.”