Cancer experts issued a 12-point code on Tuesday aimed at preventing up to half of all new cases of the disease in Europe by guiding people towards smoke-free, active lives free from cancer-causing infections and substances.

Publishing the new European code against cancer, experts at the World Health Organization's (WHO) cancer research agency said the dozen simple steps would help people reduce their risk of developing and dying from the disease.

"These are all recommendations where you can change your behavior as an individual," said Dr Joachim Schuez, who led the research at the WHO's France-based International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC).


"If you follow (them), you will reduce your cancer risk," he said in a telephone briefing from IARC's Lyon headquarters.

Some 2.5 million new cases of cancer are diagnosed in Europe each year, and the burden of ill-health caused by cancers is growing in the region as populations age.

Schuez said the 12-point code - which advises people to avoid all tobacco, maintain a healthy weight, eat whole grains, fruit and vegetables and take regular exercise - could help up to half of those people avoid the unnecessary suffering of cancer.

With smoking being the number one cause of cancer in Europe, the top recommendations are: "Do not smoke. Do not use any form of tobacco. Make your home smoke free (and) support smoke-free policies in your workplace."

Smoking causes lung cancer, which is often fatal, and is the world's biggest cause of premature death from chronic conditions like heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure.

On top of the 6 million people a year worldwide killed by their own smoking, the WHO says a further 600,000 die a year as a result of exposure to other peoples' smoke - so-called second-hand or passive smoking.

The European code, also stresses the importance of avoiding alcohol and excessive sun exposure, keeping to a health diet and body weight being physically active and taking part in bowel, breast, and cervical cancer screening programs.

"The code raises awareness of the critical role of prevention in the fight against cancer," IARC's director, Christopher Wild, said in a statement.

"By adopting the code, all European citizens can take concrete actions for themselves, their friends and families to significantly reduce their risk of developing cancer."