Obesity 'linked to cancer rise'

in special Feature 29 July 2016
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Obesity 'Linked to Increase in Cancer'

As many as 670,000 additional cases of cancer could be caused by increasing levels of obesity and unhealthy weight in the next 20 years.

That's the finding of a UK report which says, if current trends continue, almost three quarters of adults could be overweight or obese by 2035, with a multitude of health issues. Cancer Research UK and UK Health Forum wants television advertising for some foods banned before the 21:00 watershed.

Cancer Link

Obesity has been linked to several cancers, including:

  • Oesophageal (gullet)
  • Womb tumours
  • Bowel tumours
Diabetes and coronary heart disease are also strongly associated with being overweight.

In the latest study, researchers used computer modelling plus historical and current health data to predict the effects of obesity over the next 20 years.

They believe an increase in the number of people who are overweight or obese would be a factor in 4.6 million additional cases of type-2 diabetes and 1.6 million extra cases of heart disease by 2035. The additional cost to the NHS for that year alone could be as much as 2.5bn.

Sugar Tax

The report's recommendations include:

  • A 20p per litre tax on sugary drinks
  • A review of online food advertising
Experts behind the report say they have taken into account that increases in obesity have started to slow in the past few years.

But they also say one of the major challenges they faced was an inability to take major future changes - such as new drugs or technologies - into account.

Prof Susan Jebb, at the University of Oxford, said while interventions to curb obesity were welcome, the report overlooked the need to fund support for people who were already overweight.

She added: "Most people know that smoking causes cancer, but fortunately, most people in the UK now don't smoke. And for them, managing their weight is the single most important thing they can do to reduce their risk of cancer."

Department of Health officials said they had already brought in a ban on adverts featuring junk food during children's TV programmes and would be launching a childhood obesity strategy shortly.

Obesity and Cancer

NHS Choices suggests that there are several theories behind the link, including:

  • Fat tissue can produce an excess amount of certain hormones that may disrupt normal growth of cells
  • Obesity may lead to tissues becoming inflamed, which in turn may increase the risk of them becoming cancerous
  • Fat may disrupt the actions of proteins designed to keep a check on cell growth
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