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Men in denial over expanding waistlines

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by Cancer Research UK | News

4 July 2005

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A new survey1 conducted by Cancer Research UK suggests that around a quarter of British men are in denial about their weight problem.

National data shows that 65 per cent2 of men are overweight3 or obese4. But the survey, which interviewed over 2,000 men, found that a worrying proportion – 25 per cent – would not admit they were carrying any extra weight.

The research asked men to identify which weight category they thought they belonged to. With 65 per cent of UK men known to be either overweight or obese, only 40 per cent of the men asked in this new survey thought they fell into either of these groups.

The survey, released to launch Cancer Research UK’s Man Alive Campaign, shows that men are not heeding health warnings to maintain a healthy body weight. Around 65 per cent of men had no idea that being overweight or obese increases their chance of developing cancer and an alarming 75 per cent did not know that being physically inactive also increases their risk.

The Man Alive campaign is designed to raise awareness of cancer among men and highlight ways to reduce the risk. Only 22 per cent of men questioned eat five portions of fruit and vegetables per day and two thirds fail to meet the recommended target of 30 minutes of moderate exercise five times a week.

It is estimated that obesity may now be responsible for around 40005 cases of cancer in UK men every year. A recent review6 suggests that obesity increases the risk of bowel cancer by 60 per cent. Being obese also doubles the risk of being diagnosed with kidney, oesophageal and stomach cancer as well as being a risk factor for bladder cancer.

Good diet and regular exercise are two factors that can help in reducing the risk of developing cancer.

Joe Pasquale, comedian and winner of the ITV game show, ‘I’m a Celebrity, Get Me out of Here’ is supporting the campaign. He says: ” There’s nothing funny about obesity – it is responsible for 4,000 cancer cases every year in UK men. Cancer Research UK’s Man Alive campaign aims to sound a wake up call to men – stop breathing in and stop kidding yourself! By making sensible adjustments to diet and exercise and making sure we get sufficient exercise, we can all reduce our risk of cancer.”

Professor Jane Wardle, Director of Cancer Research UK’s Health Behaviour Unit says: “In the space of ten years the rate of obesity for British men has increased two thirds. Women are overweight too but our research shows that more of them know they have a problem and that’s the first step in putting it right. With so many more men now at an increased risk of cancer, education is more important then ever. Man Alive is a valuable way for us to reach men with these messages and help them to take steps to reduce their cancer risk.

She adds: “Men need to be made aware of the problem, know how to fix the problem and be given the support to succeed. Only then will they reduce their risk of cancer.”

Dr Lesley Walker, Director of Information at Cancer Research UK says: “It’s vital that men understand how they can reduce their risk of cancer. The best present that anyone can give themselves is to stop smoking, it is by far the most important step in reducing cancer risk.

“In men who don’t smoke, obesity is one of the biggest known causes of preventable cancer. With rates of obesity for UK men growing faster than anywhere else in Europe, we are sounding a wake up call to all men and their partners to become more active, eat healthier diets and make sensible lifestyle choices.

“So, to lose those spare tyres, be more active and eat a balanced diet that is rich in fruit and veg and low in sugar and fat.”

For further information on visit Cancer Research UK’s Man Alive campaign website or visit the CancerHelpUK for information on cancer.


For media enquiries please contact Paul Thorne on 020 7061 8352 or, out-of-hours, the duty press officer on 07050 264 059.

1 Face to face omnibus survey of over 2000 men conducted by BMRB.

2 Health Survey for England 2002, Department of Health.

3 A body mass index (BMI) of between 25-30kg/m2 categorises overweight in men.

4 A body mass index (BMI) of more than 30 kg/m2 constitutes obesity in men.

5 Bergstrom, A., P. Pisani, et al. (2001). “Overweight as an avoidable cause of cancer in Europe.” Int J Cancer 91(3): 421-30.

6 Bianchini, F., R. Kaaks, et al. (2002). “Overweight, obesity, and cancer risk.” Lancet Oncol 3(9): 565-74.

Celebrities supporting Man Alive 2005 include Denis Law, Joe Pasquale, Vince Hill, Sam Allardyce, Jeremy Guscott and Jonathan Wilkes.

There are more than 200 different types of cancer affecting men. But prostate, lung, bowel, bladder and stomach cancers account for nearly two-thirds of all new cases.

Prostate cancer has overtaken lung cancer to become the most commonly diagnosed cancer in UK males, with more than 30,000 cases diagnosed in 2001. Lung cancer is the second most common cancer, with around 23,000 cases annually.

Bowel cancer is the third most common male cancer, with more than 18,000 cases each year.

Bladder cancer is the fourth most common cancer in men with more than 7500 cases a year.

Stomach cancer is the fifth most common male cancer with around 5700 cases annually.

Cancer Research UK spends around £25 million each year on research into prostate, lung and bowel cancer, which together account for more than half of all cancers in men.

Cancer Research UK’s Reduce the Risk Campaign aims to raise awareness of the avoidable risks for cancer and the importance of early detection. For further information visit our Reduce The Risk website.