Obesity Set to Be Main Cause of Cancer in Women
Obesity could overtake smoking as the biggest preventable cause of cancer in UK women.
Currently, 12% of cancers in women are linked to smoking, and 7% to being overweight and obese. But a new report from Cancer Research UK predicts that, as the number of smokers falls and obesity rises, being overweight could be linked to even more cases of cancer than smoking in 25 years’ time.
Being overweight or obese as an adult increases the risk of 13 different types of cancer, including breast, bowel and kidney cancer, but only around one in seven people in the UK are aware of the link.
As well as launching a UK-wide campaign to increase awareness of obesity as a cause of cancer, Cancer Research UK has produced a report on the risk factors predicted to cause cancer in the future.
The report used an established epidemiological method to calculate how many UK cancer cases are likely to be caused by smoking and obesity in 2025–2035, based on data from 10 years earlier.
Projected weight-related increase
The report predicts that by 2035, 10% of cancers in women (around 25,000 cases) could be related to smoking and 9% (around 23,000 cases) to excess weight.
Projections of cancer rates beyond 2035 are less precise but, if current trends continue, being overweight and obese could be linked to even more cases of cancer than smoking in women by 2043.
Obesity is not predicted to overtake smoking as a preventable cause of cancer in UK men until some time later. This is because more men than women smoke, and some of the most common obesity-related cancers, such as breast cancer, mostly affect women.
Professor Linda Bauld, Cancer Research UK’s prevention expert, says that lessons must be learnt from smoking prevention in order to reduce the number of weight-related cancers: “The decline in smoking is a cause for celebration. It shows how decades of effort to raise awareness about the health risks plus strong political action have paid off.
“But, just as there is still more to do to support people to quit smoking, we also need to act now to halt the tide of weight-related cancers and ensure this projection never becomes a reality.”
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