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Britain warned that obesity epidemic will cause thousands more cases of cancer

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by Cancer Research UK | News

5 December 2006

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Cancer Research UK today put Britain on a warning that the rising tide of obesity could result in as many as 12,000 cases of weight related cancer diagnosed annually by 2010.

The most recent figures show that in 2003 there were 24.2 million obese or overweight people in the UK. The department of health has predicted a 14 per cent increase by 2010 which means the numbers will rise to 27.6 million.

Cancer Research UK statisticians have calculated that if the rate of obese and overweight people continues to rise – as the government has predicted – there will be an increase of around 1500 weight related cancers per year by 2010.

Researchers have estimated that excess weight causes 3.8 per cent of cancers. The projected rise in people becoming overweight or obese means that weight related cancers are likely to rise from 10, 500 cases per year to 12,000 in just seven years.

After smoking obesity is one of the most important preventable causes of cancer. But few people are aware that being overweight or obese increases the risk of developing the disease. A Cancer Research UK survey has shown that only 29 per cent of overweight or obese people are aware of the cancer connection.

Professor Tim Key, Cancer Research UK epidemiologist and expert on diet and cancer, said: “It is now well established that being overweight increases the risk of developing several types of cancer. The effects on breast and womb cancer are almost certainly due to the increased production of the hormone oestrogen in the fatty tissue. We are less sure of the precise mechanisms in other obesity related cancers but we can confidently predict that the number of these cases will increase unless the rise in obesity in Britain can be reversed”.