UK – The number of obese people in the UK has risen high above to smokers in a ratio of two to one, according to recent figures from Cancer Research UK.
These concerning revelations were part of the organization’s nationwide campaign aimed at increasing awareness of the link between obesity and cancer.
The campaign compares smoking and obesity to show how policy change can help people form healthier habits, not to compare tobacco with food.
Explaining the correlation between obesity and cancer, Cancer Research notes that extra body fat sends out signals that can tell cells to divide more often and, similar to smoking, can cause damage that builds up over time and raises the risk of cancer.
“There isn’t a silver bullet to reduce obesity, but the huge fall in smoking over the years partly thanks to advertising and environmental bans, shows that Government-led change works,” said Professor Linda Bauld, Cancer Research UK’s prevention expert.
“It was needed to tackle sky-high smoking rates, and now the same is true for obesity.
“The world we live in doesn’t make it easy to be healthy and we need Government action to fix that, but people can also make changes themselves; small things like swapping junk food for healthier options and keeping active can all add up to help reduce cancer risk.”
Obesity, overweight and related cancers
According to the cancer research and awareness charity, excess weight causes more cases of certain cancers than smoking thus need for the government to enact swift actions to tackle obesity.
The research reveals almost a third of UK adults are obese and being overweight or obese trumps smoking as the leading cause of four different types of cancer.
However, smoking still remains still the nation’s biggest preventable cause of cancer and carries a much higher risk of the disease than obesity.
Excess weight causes around 1,900 more cases of bowel cancer than smoking in the UK each year, says Cancer Research UK.
The same worrying pattern is true of cancer in the kidneys (1,400 more cases caused by excess weight than by smoking each year in the UK), ovaries (460) and liver (180).
Research scientists have identified that obesity causes 13 types of cancer, though further research is needed to ascertain the relationship between extra body fat and cancer.
The charity has called on the UK government to work on its ambition to halve childhood obesity rates by 2030 through measures such as introducing a 9pm watershed for junk food adverts on TV and online and restricting promotional offers on unhealthy food and drinks.
“As smoking rates fall and obesity rates rise, we can clearly see the impact on a national health crisis when the Government puts policies in place and when it puts its head in the sand,” said Michelle Mitchell, Cancer Research UK’s chief executive.
“Our children could be a smoke-free generation, but we’ve hit a devastating record high for childhood obesity, and now we need urgent Government intervention to end the epidemic. They still have a chance to save lives.”