Most People Unaware of Link Between Obesity and Cancer

High body mass index linked to 10 types of cancer, including cancers of the breast, bowel, esophageal, and womb.

Three out of four people in the United Kingdom are unaware of a link between obesity and cancer, according to a report by Cancer Research UK.

Furthermore, Cancer Research UK and the UK Health Forum estimated that if the obesity epidemic continues, there will be 670,000 additional cancer cases over the next 20 years.

“A quarter of all UK adults are estimated to be obese, and this has a real impact on their risk of developing cancer,” said Julie Sharp, head of health information at Cancer Research UK. “Eating a healthy balanced diet and becoming more active can help people to keep a health weight. And encouraging children and teenagers to do the same can help them keep to a healthy weight later on in life.”

Generally, the nationwide survey found that those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds were less likely to know about the link, with men less likely than women to be aware of the increased risk of cancer caused by obesity.

“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.”

More surprisingly, 78% of individuals were unware that obesity was specifically linked to ovarian cancer. In other types of cancer, however, there was increased awareness of the link, with 60% of people aware in bowel cancer, and 55% aware of the link to liver cancer.

“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,” Cox said. “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. The government acknowledges that marketing junk food to kids is a problem and has removed these adverts during children’s programming. We also need to see these restrictions during family viewing time before 9pm if we want to make a difference to children’s health.”