The main cancer risk factor for women is set to change by 2043

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  • Cancer is one of the biggest killers in Britain - yet in 2015, Cancer Research UK reported that around 38% of cases were preventable, with smoking named as the leading preventable cause.

    But it seems that that’s all set to change in 25 years, as experts have predicted that obesity will likely overtake smoking as the leading preventable cause of cancer in British women by 2043. This is according to a recent Cancer Research UK report.

    At present, 12% of cancers in women are linked to smoking, and 7% to being overweight and obese.

    However, as smoking rates fall and obesity rates are projected to rise, Cancer Research UK predicts that that gap will likely close in 25 years time, and obesity will climb to become the number one driver of cancers in women.

    The charity reported that 10% of cancers in women (around 25,000 cases) could be related to smoking and 9% (around 23,000 cases) to being overweight and obese.

    Assuming the current trends continue, Cancer Research UK predicts by 2043 being overweight and obese could be linked to even more cases of cancer than smoking in women.

    They also state that for men in the UK, obesity will likely not overtake smoking as the biggest preventable cause of cancer until some time later, as more men than women smoke.

    Although obesity is more prevalent in the male population, it is thought that obesity is a bigger risk factor for women.

    The Cancer Research report links smoking with cancers such as acute myeloid leukaemia, lung, bladder, bowel, cervical, pancreatic and stomach. Being overweight or obese is linked to bowel, gall bladder, kidney, liver, breast, ovarian and thyroid cancers.

    Cancer Research UK’s prevention expert Professor Linda Bauld has said that as such, the government must raise awareness on weight-related illnesses in a similar way to their efforts to reduce smoking in order to decrease the nation’s rising obesity rates.

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    “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-related cancers and ensure this projection never becomes a reality.”

    Professor Bauld added that those who were obese in childhood were five times more likely to be carrying excess weight as an adult.

    He said, “That’s why we are raising awareness of the link between cancer and obesity and calling for measures to protect children, like a ban on junk food adverts before 9pm and for restrictions on price promotions of ‘less healthy’ products.”