Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Obesity 'fuelling cancer timebomb'

By Caroline Gammell

The growing obesity epidemic is fuelling a cancer timebomb, cancer research experts warn today.
  • One in three primary-school leavers overweight
  • Ten ways to stay thin
  • Being overweight increases the risk of developing a number of cancers, including breast, womb and prostate.

    According to a study by Cancer Research the number of men and women under the age of 45 who are morbidly obese has doubled in the past decade. This increase in obesity means more people are at risk of developing cancer.

    Professor Jane Wardle, the director of Cancer Research UK's health behaviour unit, said slim people stayed roughly the same size over the 10 years, but the weight of heavier people dramatically increased.

    The charity said a more sedentary lifestyle – often sitting at a computer – takeaway meals and snacking were all contributory factors.

    Prof Wardle said two cancers that claimed most lives in Britain – breast and colorectal – were among those that had been linked with obesity. "We are seeing evidence of a rise in the number of cancers that can be caused by obesity just when we are seeing a reduction in those caused by smoking," she said.

    Being overweight or obese upsets the metabolic environment and accelerates cell damage as well as the fat secreting hormones that could trigger tumours, she went on.

    Obese people are at a greater risk of getting cancers of the womb, gall bladder and kidney and could also increase the risk of prostate and pancreatic cancers. "The biological link between obesity and cancer is complicated but maintaining a healthy body weight will reduce cancer risk.

    "We need to continue raising awareness of the dangers of obesity and offer information to help people lose those extra pounds."

    Dr Lesley Walker, of Cancer Research UK, said: "This research adds to the evidence that the UK is in the grip of an obesity epidemic.

    "We know that high body weight increases the risk of a number of cancers and it is important we get this message to as many people as possible. A healthy diet with plenty of fibre, fruit and vegetables as well as regular exercise can help people to lose weight and reduce their risk of cancer."

    Obesity growth in England was measured by taking the weight and waist measurements of 12,000 people in 1993-94 and contrasting them with a similar group 10 years later.

    The number of men classed as obese rose from 13.4 per cent to 22.7 per cent, while the level of obese women increased from 15.8 per cent to 22.4 per cent. Men's waist circumference expanded by 1.37in (3.48cms) and women's by 1.71in (4.35cms).

    The study also looked at a person's Body Mass Index (BMI), which is calculated by dividing weight in kilograms by the square of a person's height in metres. To be considered morbidly obese, a person must have a BMI of 35 or more. Between 1994 and 2004, the number of women with a BMI of more than 40 doubled.

    Research has shown that 12,000 cases of cancer could be prevented each year if a person's BMI did not exceed 25 – classed as overweight.



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