Obesity will overtake smoking as the biggest cancer killer within the next 10 years, leading specialists predict. The condition is already to blame for up to 32,000 cancer deaths in the UK each year, researchers warn.
The warning was made at the world’s biggest conference on cancer, where it was revealed that obesity is killing tens of thousands of people every year in Britain.
Smoking is thought to be responsible for a quarter of Britain’s 160,000 annual cancer deaths and obesity could surpass that figure in 10 to 15 years as the population gets fatter while giving up cigarettes.
The researchers said spiralling rates of obesity meant that cancer – once seen as a disease of the elderly – was now increasingly being diagnosed up to two decades earlier than in the past. The new figures suggest one in five cancer deaths in Britain is caused by excess weight.
Jennifer Ligibel, a cancer specialist from Harvard University, said: “We have seen rising prevalence of obesity over a relatively short time – in a matter of decades its gone from relatively uncommon to around one in three adults being obese in the US – and the UK is not far behind.” Twenty five per cent of Britons are now obese, compared with three per cent in the Seventies.