A study conducted by Cancer Research UK shows that the increased risk of cancer associated with obesity is not widely recognized among the general population.
Obesity and being overweight are among the leading preventable causes of cancer, second only to smoking. Data in the UK indicates that obesity is estimated to be a contributing cause in over 18,000 cancer cases each year. Studies show that it may be linked to 10 different types of cancer: oesophagus, pancreas, breast (after menopause), liver, gallbladder, bowel, kidney, womb, prostate, and ovarian.
Yet according to a new report from Cancer Research UK, a large percentage of the population is unaware of the link between the two conditions.
The organization, which is the world’s largest independent cancer charity, conducted an online survey of 3,293 individuals drawn from the general population, aimed at exploring public awareness of the link between obesity and cancer. Among the study’s findings:
- When asked the unprompted question “Which, if any, health conditions do you think can result from being overweight?”, 75% of respondents failed to name cancer as a possibility.
- When asked a prompted question, only 58% of the respondents selected cancer as a condition linked to being overweight or obese, while 94% selected diabetes.
- Individuals from the highest social grade (based on income and profession) were approximately 50% more likely to mention cancer as being linked to obesity than those from the lowest social grade.
- Men were less likely than women to name cancer as a health risk related to obesity.
- Public awareness of the link was greatest for cancers related to digestive organs, such as the bowel, liver and pancreas, and least for cancers such as prostate and ovarian.
Authors of the study consider the low levels of awareness to be “concerning”, and recommend that governments undertake interventions targeted at raising awareness and providing support to help people make positive changes to reduce obesity. They estimate that at current rates, obesity and being overweight may result in a further 670,000 cancer cases in the UK the next 20 years.
Written By: Linda Jensen