Almost half of women are putting themselves at risk of cancer due to their bulging waistlines, experts warned today.
While a common perception is that men carry more weight around their middle, Government figures show 44% of women in England have a large waistline, compared with 32% of men.
Experts recommend that women have a healthy waist measurement of less than 31.5in (80cm) while white and black men keep to less than 37in (94cm).
Asian men should keep their waist measurement under 35in (90cm) due to higher risks from too much fat.
Today, experts from the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) called on both sexes to think about shedding a few pounds if they are overweight or have a big waist.
Excess body fat increases the risk of all cancers, but is strongly linked to cancers of the bowel, pancreas, breast and womb lining.
Dr Rachel Thompson, deputy head of science for the WCRF, said: "We tend to think that men are more likely to put weight on their stomach.
"But these statistics show that, actually, women in England are more likely to have a raised waist circumference than men.
"This is why it is important that we let women know that this is just as relevant for them, particularly as breast and endometrial cancers account for about a third of newly diagnosed cancers in women.
"We need to raise awareness among both men and women that both being overweight and having a large waistline are cancer risk factors.
"That is why it is a good idea to measure both your waist and also your body mass index (BMI).
"If you have a large waist measurement or are in the overweight or obese range, then you can take steps to move towards a healthy weight.
"Over the last few years the evidence has become increasingly strong that excess body fat, and particularly fat carried around the middle, is a cancer risk factor."
People can measure their waists by putting a tape measure half-way between their lowest rib cage and the hip bone.
Tam Fry, from the National Obesity Forum, said: "Taking your own waist measurement is not easily accomplished, particularly after the 15th mince pie and the understandable desire to fiddle the figures.
"Get someone else to take it accurately."
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