PEOPLE rate looking good over reducing the risk of cancer as a reason to maintain a healthy body weight – according to a new survey by Cancer Research UK.

The findings show widespread lack of knowledge about the link between obesity and cancer risk. Forty per cent of people think looking good is an advantage of maintaining a healthy body weight, compared with 32 per cent for lowering the risk of cancer. Twice as many people – 67 per cent – picked reducing the risk of heart disease.

Being obese or overweight is one of the most significant preventable causes of cancer in non-smokers. Obesity increases the risk of bowel, stomach, oesophageal and kidney cancers, as well as cancer of the womb and breast cancer in post-menopausal women. Yet rates of obesity are increasing throughout the UK.

Cancer Research UK and Weight Concern have joined forces to develop a weight management programme called Ten Top Tips. These tips have been designed to fit into daily life and are based on the best scientific evidence. The programme involves adopting ten simple steps and using a weekly checklist over eight weeks to monitor progress and reinforce the new habits into a lifetime of healthy behaviour.

Cancer Research UK interviewed over 4000 people from around the UK to identify the factors that motivate people to maintain a healthy body weight.

The respondents were offered a range of reasons to choose from, including ‘to make me feel healthier’, ‘to lower my risk of heart disease’, ‘to lower my risk of cancer’, ‘to feel better about myself’, ‘to be more active’, and ‘to reduce my risk of diabetes’, as well as ‘to look good’.

Reducing the risk of cancer was selected less frequently than many of the other responses as a benefit of maintaining a healthy body weight, although it did score slightly higher than ‘to fit into nicer clothes’.

Those aged between 25 and 34 proved the most image-conscious with nearly half – 48 per cent – saying that looking good was a reason for a healthy weight and only 34 per cent picking cancer risk as a motivating factor. Looking good and cancer risk were equal reasons for those over 65 with 25 per cent listing both.

Dr Lesley Walker, director of cancer information at Cancer Research UK, said: “This research provides a real insight into the priorities many of us have when it comes to looking after our bodies and the low awareness of the link between obesity and cancer. We know for those who don’t smoke, maintaining a healthy body weight is one of the most important things we can do to reduce our risk of cancer.

“The Ten Top Tips offer clear information and practical advice, helping people form lifelong habits to maintain a healthy body weight.”

Professor Jane Wardle, director of Cancer Research UK’s health behaviour unit, said: “At the height of summer many of us are worried about looking good and it is not surprising these results show that so many of us are motivated by our body image when it comes to our weight. What is alarming is that so many people are unaware that reducing cancer risk is a benefit of maintaining a healthy body weight.

“We need to continue raising awareness of the dangers of obesity, and offer information to help people lose those extra pounds and maintain a healthy weight. Visiting Reduce the Risk. and following the Ten Top Tips is the first step towards a healthier body. ”


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


* Face to face omnibus survey of 4254 UK men and women conducted by BMRB.

Visit Reduce the Risk or phone 020 7061 8489 to request a free leaflet containing the Ten Top Tips programme and further information that can help reduce your risk of cancer.

The tips themselves are as follows:

  1. Keep to your meal routine Try to eat at roughly the same times each day, whether this is two or five times a day.
  2. Go reduced fat Choose reduced fat versions of foods such as dairy products, spreads and salad dressings where you can. Use them sparingly as some can still be high in fat.
  3. Walk off the weight Walk 10,000 steps (equivalent to 60-90 minutes moderate activity) each day. You can use a pedometer to help count the steps. You can break-up your walking throughout the day.
  4. Pack a healthy snack If you snack, choose a healthy option such as fresh fruit or low calorie yogurts instead of chocolate or crisps.
  5. Look at the labels Be careful about food claims. Check the fat and sugar content on food labels when shopping and preparing food.
  6. Caution with your portions Don’t heap food on your plate (except vegetables). Think twice before having second helpings.
  7. Up on your feet Break up your sitting time. Stand up for ten minutes out of every hour.
  8. Think about your drinks Choose water or sugar-free squashes. Unsweetened fruit juice is high in natural sugar so limit it to 1 glass per day (200ml/ 1/3 pint). Alcohol is high in calories. Try to limit the amount you drink.
  9. Focus on your food Slow down. Don’t eat on the go or while watching TV. Eat at a table if possible.
  10. Don’t forget your 5 a day Eat at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day (400g in total).

Ten Top Tips form a key element of Cancer Research UK’s Reduce the Risk campaign which aims to raise awareness of the avoidable risks of cancer and highlight ways to reduce this risk.

About the Reduce the Risk campaign

Half of all cancers could be prevented by changes to lifestyle. Cancer Research UK’s Reduce the Risk campaign highlights five important ways you can lower your cancer risk

  • Stop smoking This is the best present you will ever give yourself. We know it’s hard but support and effective treatments are available to help you quit smoking or chewing tobacco. Give up now and greatly reduce your risk of cancer.
  • Stay in shape Cut your cancer risk by keeping a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese increases your risk of several cancers. Try to balance the energy you take in from food with the energy you burn through activity. Just 30 minutes five days a week of moderate exercise such as brisk walking, gardening or swimming will keep you healthy.
  • Eat and drink healthily Limit alcohol and maintain a healthy diet to reduce your risk. Alcohol increases your risk of certain cancers, more so if you also smoke. Try to limit the amount you drink. Aim for a healthy balanced diet, including plenty of fruit and vegetables – at least five portions a day.
  • Be SunSmart Protect yourself from the sun and harmful UV. Cover up and take care not to burn. Watch moles for any changes and get unusual skin blemishes checked out by the doctor. Avoid using sunbeds.
  • Look after number one Know your body, be aware of any changes and contact your doctor if you notice anything unusual. Go for screening when invited – it could save your life.

About Cancer Research UK

  • Together with its partners and supporters, Cancer Research UK’s vision is to beat cancer.
  • Cancer Research UK carries out world-class research to improve understanding of the disease and find out how to prevent, diagnose and treat different kinds of cancer.
  • Cancer Research UK ensures that its findings are used to improve the lives of all cancer patients.
  • Cancer Research UK helps people to understand cancer, the progress that is being made and the choices each person can make.
  • Cancer Research UK works in partnership with others to achieve the greatest impact in the global fight against cancer.

For further information about Cancer Research UK’s work or to find out how to support the charity, please call 020 7009 8820 or visit Our Website


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