Women are twice as likely than men to develop cancer as a result of obesity, according to a new study.
The research, published in The Lancet Oncology, shows that excess body weight causes around 481,000 new cancer cases each year in adults – or 3.6% of cancers worldwide.
The study shows that excess fat causes more than 20,000 cases a year in Britain, the highest estimate yet of the toll of the obesity epidemic. Women made up 13,000 of those – the equivalent of 8.2% of all female cancer cases diagnosed in 2012. Around 7,200 were men, accounting for 4.4% of all male cases.
Post-menopausal breast, endometrial, and colon cancers were responsible for almost three-quarter of the obesity-related cancer burden in women, while in men colon and kidney cancers accounted for over two-thirds of all obesity-related cancers.
Globally, 500,000 cancer cases could be attributed to patients being overweight, the World Health Organisation found.
In a league table of 176 nations compiled using the study date, British women came 38th. Top of the list was Barbados, where 12.7% of female cancer cases were blamed on obesity.
Eluned Hughes, Senior Manager – Information at Breakthrough Breast Cancer said: “This report reinforces what we already know, that we need to do so much more to reverse the tide of increasing obesity levels in the UK. By encouraging and supporting people in making healthier life choices, thousands of cancer cases could be avoided in the future.
“Whilst we are learning more and more each day about various factors that affect breast cancer risk, it is not yet possible to predict with certainty who will get breast cancer, and for women who have been diagnosed with the disease, we can’t yet say for sure what caused it. That’s why Breakthrough is leading the way to find the answers to these questions and shining a spotlight on prevention as part of the strategic focus of our research work.
“Until the day comes when we can stop breast cancer for good, there are proven steps women can take to reduce their risk of developing the disease – maintaining a healthy weight is one of the most important. Limiting the amount of alcohol you drink and being regularly physically active can also help to keep BMI down and lower breast cancer risk – in fact, just 30 minutes of physical activity each day can reduce your risk of developing breast cancer by at least 20%.”
Latest UK figures show 67% of men, and 57% of women are overweight or obese.
Tam Fry, from the National Obesity Forum, told The Telegraph: “Putting it simply, these figures show that we are killing ourselves.
“Despite warnings for years that obesity causes a whole host of health problems, including heart disease, stroke and cancer, the public is paying no attention.”