Obesity to cause more female cancers than smoking

Obesity is set to overtake smoking as the biggest preventable cause of cancer in women, according to a new Cancer Research UK (CRUK) report.

Estimates suggest that by 2035, some 10 per cent of cancers in women (around 25,000 cases) could be caused by smoking and nine per cent (around 23,000 cases) by excess weight. But by 2043, if trends continue as projected, excess weight could cause even more cases of cancer than smoking in women.

While more males than females are overweight or obese, obesity has a greater effect on women, as some of the most common obesity-related cancers predominantly affect them – such as breast and womb cancers. 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.

The figures for men are different because the gap between obesity and tobacco as causes of cancer is expected to close much later than in women. And since more men smoke, they are more likely to have tobacco-related cancers, CRUK explains.

CRUK has launched a UK-wide campaign to increase awareness that obesity is a cause of cancer. Commenting on the campaign, Professor Linda Bauld, CRUK prevention expert, said: “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 including taxation, removing tobacco marketing and a ban on smoking in indoor public places, 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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