A new British study offers a stark picture of the future of the country's health: About half the population, researchers find, will develop cancer during their lifetimes. "Cancer is primarily a disease of old age, with more than 60% of all cases diagnosed in people aged over 65," study author Peter Sasieni says in a press release. "If people live long enough, then most will get cancer at some point." The figure applies to people born after 1960. But Sasieni offers an even bleaker assessment for younger people: He informally estimates in the Telegraph that "probably we would be talking about two in three … of today's children getting cancer if we don't do anything."
Still, there's good news. For one thing, the rate of survival of the disease has doubled in the UK in the past four decades; about one in two who develop cancer survive it for at least 10 years, the press release notes. What's more, "there's a lot we can do to make (developing the illness) less likely—like giving up smoking, being more active, drinking less alcohol, and maintaining a healthy weight," Sasieni says. Adds another expert: "Growing older is the biggest risk factor for most cancers, and it's something we can't avoid. But more than four in 10 cancers diagnosed each year in the UK could be prevented by changes in lifestyle—that's something we can all aim for personally so that we can stack the odds in our favor." (In more upbeat news, another recent study suggests that within decades, cancer will kill hardly anyone under age 80.)