The 2nd more preventable cause of cancer: obesity

Keeping a healthy weight helps prevent cancerWe probably all know that smoking is the one thing you should stop doing if you don’t want to get cancer. But did you know that being overweight or obese is the second biggest preventable cause of cancer?

If you answered no, you’re not alone. A recent nationwide survey conducted by Cancer Research UK reported that three out of four people in that country are unaware of the link. And men are less likely than women to know about it.

Being overweight or obese is linked to an estimated 18,100 cases of cancer in the UK each year. And it’s linked to 10 types of cancer, including breast, bowel, womb and esophageal.

Apart from not knowing about the link between obesity and cancer, the survey showed:

  • 78% of those asked didn’t know obesity was linked specifically to ovarian cancer;
  • 69% didn’t know there was a link with breast cancer; and
  • 53% didn’t know pancreatic cancer was linked to obesity.

More people knew of the link with bowel cancer, with 60% of respondents knowing about the association, while 55% of people linked obesity with liver cancer.

“Cancer isn’t at the forefront of people’s minds when talking about obesity and that’s really concerning,” says Alison Cox, director of prevention at Cancer Research UK. “Few understand that excess weight increases the risk of several cancers, including some of the most common such as breast cancer.”

Worryingly, a recent report by Cancer Research UK and the UK Health Forum estimates that if the current trends of being overweight and obese continues, it would result in a further 670,000 cancer cases over the next 20 years. The report also found that the number of obese people would be higher among lower income groups.

Dr Julie Sharp, Cancer Research UK’s head of health information, confirms that a quarter of all UK adults are estimated to be obese. “This has a real impact on their risk of developing cancer. Eating a healthy balanced diet and becoming more active can help people to keep a healthy weight. And encouraging children and teenagers to do the same can help them keep to a healthy weight later on in life.”

So what can be done about this epidemic? “It’s the Government’s responsibility to inform the public of the link and also to take action to tackle the obesity epidemic, starting with the health of the nation’s children,” says Cox. “It’s great the Government’s childhood obesity plan includes a sugary drinks tax, but it’s not enough to curb the rising tide of ill-health.”
“The Government acknowledges that marketing junk food to kids is a problem and has removed these adverts during children’s programming,” she continues. “We also need to see these restrictions during family viewing time before 9pm if we want to make a difference to children’s health.”

Read the full report at

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