Obesity will overtake smoking as the biggest preventable cause of cancer in women, a report from Cancer Research UK has suggested. This “crossover point” will occur in 25 years from now if current trends persist.

The charity is now calling for a campaign to raise awareness of the fact that obesity leads to cancer – with only one in seven Britons currently aware that such a link exists. Britain was last year named as the most overweight nation in western Europe, with obesity rates rising at a higher level than in the US. The reasons for the predicted shift identified in the report are twofold with both fewer people smoking and an increased incidence of obesity and weight problems among people of the nation at large. Public health bodies have long warned of a weight-related epidemic in the UK, with some 62 per cent of the population deemed obese or overweight. Meanwhile, the prevalence of smoking in the UK is now projected to decrease by around four percentage points to 22 per cent of the population by 2025, while overweight and obesity issues in the UK are projected to increase by a similar amount over the same time frame.

The crossover point will be reached in 2043 among the female population, the report concluded. Any such takeover among the male population is likely to happen much later on due to a higher occurrence of smoking-related cancers among men and a lower incidence of forms of the disease caused by weight problems.  Professor Linda Bauld, a prevention expert at Cancer Research UK called on the government to launch a campaign to match that which has helped lead to a marked decrease in smoking over the past two decades. “The decline in smoking is a cause for celebration. It shows how decades of effort to raise awareness about the health risks plus strong political action including taxation, removing tobacco marketing and a ban on smoking in indoor public places, have paid off,” she said. “But, just as there is still more to do to support people to quit smoking, we also need to act now to halt the tide of weight-loss related careers and ensure this projection never becomes a reality.”

The charity has called for measures including a ban on TV adverts for junk food before the watershed and for restrictions on price promotions of less healthy food and drinks, echoing the combined awareness and legislative campaigns that have been deployed in recent years in response to other public health issues. The report marks the first attempt to quantify and compare the predicted rates of cancer caused by smoking and weight issues in the UK. Together, smoking and overweight and obesity could cause more than 95,000 UK cancer cases in 2035 alone – compared with around 75,000 cases in 2015.

Source: The Telegraph