It is estimated that one in every 20 cancer cases in the United Kingdom is linked to obesity, including breast cancer. But, according to a recent survey, three out of four people in the U.K. are unaware of the cancer-obesity link.
A new Cancer Research UK report, titled “Tipping the Scales: Why Preventing Obesity Makes Economic Sense,” revealed that people with lower socioeconomic backgrounds are less likely to be aware of the increased risk of cancer caused by obesity. Men also are less likely than women to know about this link in co-morbidities.
Being overweight or obese is known to increase the risk for developing 10 different types of cancers, including esophagus, breast, liver, pancreas, kidney, bowel, prostate and ovarian cancers. The Cancer Research UK estimates obesity is linked to nearly 18,100 new cancer cases every year in the U.K alone. However, after smoking, being obese is the biggest preventable cause of cancer.
“A quarter of all UK adults are estimated to be obese, and this has a real impact on their risk of developing cancer,” Julie Sharp, PhD, Cancer Research UK’s head of health information, said in a press release. “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.”
But most people are not aware that obesity increases the risk of cancer. The survey revealed that 78 percent of those asked didn’t know obesity was linked particularly to ovarian cancer, and 69 percent of the respondents were unaware of the link between obesity and breast cancer. Also, more than half did not know this link also existed with prostate cancer.
Bowel and liver cancers were among the one with better awareness, with 60 percent and 55 percent of the surveyed people being aware that obesity could increase the risk for such cancers.
“Cancer isn’t at the forefront of people’s minds when talking about obesity, and that’s really concerning,” said 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.”
And, according to Cancer Research UK and the UK Health Forum, if the current trends of being overweight and obese continue, three out of four adults will be obese by 2035. This increase in the number of obese people will be particularly higher among lower-income groups, the researchers note, and may lead to an an additional 670,000 new cancer cases in the next 20 years.
“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. 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,” said Cox.