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Obesity catches up to smoking as leading cause of cancer, experts warn

Bad nutrition continues to be a great societal problem, as experts from Cancer Research UK (CRUK) are now warning that obesity is catching up to smoking as a leading cause of cancer. According to the experts, while smoking still maintains its leading spot, the number of smokers and smoking-related cancer diagnoses is declining, while that of obesity-related cancer diagnoses is increasing.

CRUK has stated that smoking is still the biggest cause of cancer. However, obesity is now more responsible for new cases of bowel, kidney, ovarian and liver cancer compared to tobacco. CRUK’s statistics revealed that obesity and being dangerously overweight cause around 1,900 more cases of bowel cancer, 1,400 more cases of kidney cancer, 460 more cases of ovarian cancer and 180 more cases of liver cancer than smoking each year.

This is crucial information, especially since, according to the CRUK, there are now more people in the United Kingdom who are dangerously overweight — a number pegged at around 13.4 million — than there are smokers, who currently number around 6.3 million. In addition, almost a third of British adults are now classified as obese. CRUK added that barring some radical intervention methods, this problem shows no sign of slowing down, with one in every 10 children in the UK already being classified as obese before they even turn five. (Related: Shocking study reveals heart failure is killing MORE young Americans, with diabetes and obesity considered as major risk factors.)

Radical intervention methods needed to address obesity crisis

“As smoking rates fall and obesity rates rise, we can clearly see the impact on a national health crisis when the Government puts policies in place – and when it puts its head in the sand,” Michelle Mitchell, CRUK chief executive, said. “Our children could be smoke-free in a generation, but we’ve hit a devastating record high for childhood obesity, and now we need urgent government intervention to end the epidemic. They still have a chance to save lives.”

According to Mitchell, current scientific evidence has shown that obesity can be the primary or contributing cause of 13 types of cancer. However, why this is the case still isn’t fully understood, and she believes that further research is needed to figure out how “extra body fat” can lead to cancer.

CRUK has begun a campaign around the UK calling o their government to act on its desire to cut in half the rate of childhood obesity by the year 2030. They believe this can be done by banning junk food advertisements from being broadcast online and on TV before nine in the evening, when children are more likely to be either tuned into one screen or another. Further measures to combat childhood obesity would be to restrict promotional offers on junk foods and drinks.

“There isn’t a silver bullet to reduce obesity, but the huge fall in smoking over the years – partly thanks to advertising and environmental bans – shows that government-led change works,” said Linda Bauld, professor of public health at the University of Edinburgh and the CRUK’s chair on behavioral research for cancer prevention. “It was needed to tackle sky-high smoking rates, and now the same is true for obesity.”

Many experts agree that, while obesity is a complex issue, the environment in which children live plays a huge role in causing it. Many other experts and groups, such as the British Medical Association, the UK’s leading professional association and trade union for doctors and medical practitioners, are very frustrated because they believe that the British government is “dragging its heels” over introducing measures to curb obesity. If they continue and if healthier diets aren’t promoted, obesity rates are likely to continue skyrocketing, which will only lead to more cancer diagnoses.

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