The head of the Iran Cancer Conference says “environmental pollution, rising obesity, a lack of activity and unhealthy living habits” are hitting Iran with a rising wave of cancer cases.

The Mehr News Agency reports that Alireza Foroutan told a cancer research meeting in Tehran that 70,000 people are diagnosed with cancer in Iran each year and in the next 20 years the rate will increase by 90 percent.

Cancer is the third most common cause of death in Iran, after cardiovascular diseases and road accidents.

“WHO statistics reveal that healthy living and eating habits and physical activity, while being preventative measures for diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular disease, are also 40-percent effective in reducing cancer cases,” Foroutan reported.

He added that 70 percent of cancer deaths around the world are now occurring in countries with limited resources to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer.

Iran’s ability to acquire medical equipment and medical drugs has been severely limited by international sanctions imposed in the course of its nuclear disputes with world powers.

Many have blamed the rise in air pollution in Tehran and other major cities in recent months on the use of “substandard” gasoline, which is being produced in the country following international sanctions on Iran’s petroleum trade.

Although it is a chief crude exporter, Iran imported over 50 percent of its petrol needs because existing refineries don’t have sufficient capacity.