Weight-related cancer cases skyrocket, report finds
The number of people developing cancer because they are overweight or obese will increase by 38,500 a year by 2035, health charities have warned as the called on the government to do more to clamp down on junk food.
An extra 7.6 million cases of disease linked to being overweight or obese will be diagnosed in the UK over the next 20 years – including 670,000 new cases of cancer – according to new figures from the Obesity Health Alliance. Weight is believed to be responsible for between 3 and 20 per cent of cancer cases. Globally, it is estimated that 3.6 per cent of all new cancers in adults are attributable to excess bodyweight, representing a total of 481,000 cases.
About 63 per cent of Australian adults are overweight or obese, although the weight-related cancer statistics are unclear.
In the UK however, currently around 18,000 Britons a year develop cancer because they are overweight but the figure is set to treble within two decades. It means that by 2035, more than 56,000 people a year will develop cancer simply because of they are too fat.
The Obesity Health Alliance which includes Cancer Research UK, the British Medical Association, six Royal Colleges and the Royal Society of Public Health, is calling for junk food advertising to be banned on television between 6am and 9pm and new food industry limits on sugar and fat.
Alison Cox, Cancer Research UK’s director of prevention, said: “These numbers are shocking and it’s difficult to think of the impact this will have on public health and an already strained NHS. Without bold action, the next generation will face more disease and live shorter lives.
“Kids are bombarded with advertisements for unhealthy food and if we are to give our children the chance for better and healthier lives, it’s vital the Government’s childhood obesity strategy restricts this kind of marketing.”
It is estimated that around 40 million adults in Britain will be overweight or obese by 2035 and four in 10 will be dangerously fat within a decade. As well as cancer, the researchers predict there will be 4.62 million new cases of type 2 diabetes and 1.63 million cases of coronary heart disease.
The overall problem could be even worse as the study did not include other obesity-related diseases such as high blood pressure, liver disease, osteoarthritis or chronic kidney disease.
Becoming obese can also set up a vicious cycle of lower self-esteem, poor mental health and unhealthier eating, the researchers warn.
But they have calculated that a one per cent shift in the number of people putting on extra weight each year until 2035, could avoid around 77,000 cases of disease.
Modi Mwatsama, Director of Policy and Global Health at the UK Health Forum and member of the Obesity Health Alliance, said: “This study is a wakeup call for the Government and shows a daunting future if no strong action is taken against the obesity epidemic.
“We can’t expect industry to make changes on their own and people need help making healthier choices. Companies will have to be held accountable by Government. The Government must lead the way by creating a level playing field with independent, regulated targets for reducing the amount of sugar, fat and salt in food. Without Government action, our children face a life of disease and early death.”
Most health agencies have called on sugar to be reduced by 50 per cent in foods to cut calorie counts by between 200 and 300 a day. But the government is understood to be only considering a target of 20 per cent.
“David Cameron has the opportunity to make the UK the first country in the world to prevent obesity and type 2 diabetes but he has to be decisive with the soft drink and food industry and stick to a more effective and ambitious policy,” said Professor Graham MacGregor, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at Queen Mary University of London and Chair of Action on Sugar, said
“From what we are hearing, his plan will have little effect on childhood or adult obesity and type 2 diabetes”.
The Telegraph, London
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