Lifestyle changes could prevent more than 135,500 cases of cancer according to new research.
Cancer Research UK has found that while smoking remains the biggest preventable cause, obesity is the second biggest and causes 6.3% cases of cancer a year.
‘This research clearly demonstrates the impact of smoking and obesity on cancer risk. Prevention is the most cost-effective way of beating cancer and the UK Government could do much more to help people by making a healthy choice the easy choice,’ said Sir Harpal Kumar, chief executive of Cancer Research UK.
The latest figures published in the British Journal of Cancer reveal that obesity accounts for around 13,200 cases of cancer in women and around 9,500 in men a year.
‘Obesity is a huge health threat right now, and it will only get worse if nothing is done. The UK Government must build on the successes of smoking prevention to reduce the number of weight-related cancers,’ said Professor Linda Bauld, prevention expert at Cancer Research UK.
‘Banning junk food TV adverts before the 9pm watershed is an important part of the comprehensive approach needed.’
Last year, research from Liverpool University revealed that children were seeing as many as 12 junk food adverts an hour during prime-time television.
However, adverts for food products that are high in fat, sugar and salt are only banned from being shown around children’s television programmes.
As the proportion of the obese population is growing, health experts have warned that millennials are set to become the most overweight generation since records began – as obesity is linked to 13 different types of cancer, this will likely increase the rate diagnoses.
Other preventable causes of cancer include: alcohol consumption, eating too little fibre, processed meat, air pollution, UV radiation exposure (such as sunbeds) and a lack of exercise.
While tobacco smoke causes around 17.7% of male and 12.4% female cancer cases, this number is declining as smoking becomes less prevalent. In 2007 there were an estimated 10.2 million smokers in Great Britain but by 2016 this number had declined by 1.9 million.
‘These new figures show that the battle to conquer smoking-related cancer is far from over. But the declining numbers of smokers show that prevention strategies are working,’ added Professor Bauld.
Alongside banning junk food adverts health experts have also encouraged other prevention strategies, such as increased labelling on supermarket food products (using red, amber, and green codes for fat, sugar and salt quantities) as well as calorie counts on menus at chain restaurants and coffee shops.