UK obesity crisis will cause 360,000 cancers by 2030, NHS warns

By 2030 36,800 cancers a day will be caused by obesity, roughly four people an hour, one every 15 minutes, NHS England predicts

Alex Matthews-King
Health Correspondent
Saturday 01 June 2019 17:51
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The UK’s obesity crisis is set to trigger a massive rise in weight-related cancers with 360,000 people expected to be diagnosed with the disease by 2030, accoridng to the head of the NHS in England.

Drastic action is needed now if the UK, already the most obese nation in western Europe, is to avoid a weight-related crisis on the scale as is being experienced in the US, Simon Stevens said.

Obesity is the second biggest cause of preventable cancer after tobacco and experts worry that gains in cutting smoking rates could be undermined as obesity overtakes it.

On current trends weight-related cases will rise 62 per cent over the next decade meaning 100 people a day are diagnosed with cancer as a result.

“While cancer survival is at a record high, many people don’t yet realise that obesity causes cancer,” said the NHS England chief.

“So obesity is the new smoking, and if we continue to pile on the pounds we’re heading for thousands more avoidable cancer deaths every year. But the NHS can’t win the ‘battle of the bulge’ on its own. Families, food businesses and government all need to play their part if we’re to avoid copying America’s damaging and costly obesity epidemic.”

A 2015 study estimated that around 22,760 cancers a year were weight related in the UK, 6.3 per cent of all cancers.

NHS England projections predict there will be 36,800 cases a year caused by obesity in 2030, and this will reach 40,800 a year by 2040 – a doubling in two decades.

He was speaking in the wake of figures, presented by Harvard University researchers at the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s annual meeting in Chicago, showing the US is set to experience 500,000 weight-related cancers by 2030.

Excess weight is linked to at least 13 cancers, including colorectal, pancreatic and multiple myeloma.

Research by Dr Jennifer Ligibel of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute shows that every 5kg (11lb) of weight gained, increased a woman’s risk of breast cancer by around 6 per cent.

“This is a global problem,” said Dr Ligibel. “At the moment the US has higher levels of obesity but the UK is catching up.”

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