Obesity to overtake smoking as the leading cause of cancer deaths
Obesity could overtake smoking as the leading cause of cancer-related deaths, scientists have warned, as new research found that 40pc of cancers are preventable.
Smoking is the biggest avoidable cause of cancer, followed by excess weight, overexposure to UV radiation from the sun and sunbeds, drinking alcohol, eating too little fibre, and outdoor air pollution, a study by Cancer Research UK found.
But experts presenting the data warned that with smoking rates continuing to go down and rates of obesity on the increase, obesity could surpass smoking as the biggest killer.
"Obesity is potentially the new smoking, if we're not careful," said Cancer Research UK chief executive Harpal Kumar.
"My sense would be it'll be some time in the next couple of decades that we'll see those two switch around."
The latest figures, calculated from 2015 cancer data, show more than 37pc of all cancer cases a year could be prevented. Smoking remains the biggest preventable cause of cancer - responsible for around 32,200 cases of cancer in men (17.7pc of all male cancer cases) and around 22,000 (12.4pc) in women.
Excess weight is the second biggest preventable cause, followed by overexposure to UV radiation from the sun and sunbeds, causing around 13,600 cases. Drinking alcohol causes around 11,900 cases, while eating too little fibre is responsible for around 11,700.
The research published in the 'British Journal of Cancer' shows obesity causes 13 different types of cancer, including bowel, breast, womb and kidney, and more than one in 20 cases could be prevented by maintaining a healthy weight. Dr Katrina Brown, Cancer Research UK's statistical information and risk manager, said the public did not understand the risks of smoking until relatively recently, and it is hoped that increased awareness will mean the same will happen with obesity.
Mr Kumar said: "Leading a healthy life doesn't guarantee a person won't get cancer, but it can stack the odds in your favour."