Cancer cases caused by obesity will double in the next two decades, shocking new figures reveal.
Britain’s spiralling obesity crisis – driven by poor diets and sedentary lifestyles – means that by 2035, someone will be diagnosed every 13 minutes with cancer that has developed because of their weight.
NHS England predicts there will be 40,800 obesity-linked cancer cases every year by then – up from 22,800 in 2015.
NHS boss Simon Stevens last night said obesity was becoming the ‘new smoking’ and warned the problem was set to get much worse.
The startling projection comes as leading cancer experts today meet in Chicago to discuss how to tackle the global obesity crisis, amid fears it threatens to undermine decades of medical progress.
The American Society of Clinical Oncology congress – the biggest cancer meeting in the world – has set obesity as a ‘critical research priority’.
Harvard expert Dr Jennifer Ligibel, who will address the congress today, said last night: ‘Obesity is now one of the greatest challenges facing the world.
‘The US has higher levels of obesity but the UK is catching up. It is very troubling. We are making major advances in cancer therapies and treatment, but the risk is that obesity could undercut all of this.’ The NHS figures suggest 360,000 people will develop cancer because they are overweight or obese between 2020 and 2030.
By 2030, there will be 36,800 cancer cases a year linked to excess weight – about 100 cases a day, or one every 15 minutes. By 2035, the number will have risen to 112 a day, or one every 13 minutes.
Mr Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, said: ‘While cancer survival is at a record high, many people don’t yet realise that obesity causes cancer. On current trends, by 2030 we could see 100 new patients every day being diagnosed with obesity-related cancer.
‘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.’
Dame Sally Davies, the chief medical officer, yesterday proposed taxing all unhealthy food products to prevent parents buying them.
A third of children and two thirds of adults in Britain are overweight – the third biggest obesity problem in Europe. Hospital admissions due to obesity soared by almost 100,000 last year – a 15 per cent rise – and experts say fat patients are putting an intolerable strain on the NHS.
Dr Ligibel will today present a body of evidence about the impact of weight on breast cancer, including studies which suggest every 11lb weight gain increases the risk of the disease by up to 8 per cent.
Her lecture will also highlight studies showing that those following at least five healthy lifestyle tips drawn up by the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) had a 60 per cent lower risk of breast cancer. The advice includes staying a healthy weight, being physically active and limiting alcohol, salt and meat.
Dr Ligibel said there was ‘a really clear relationship’ between weight and cancer. There is evidence that obesity raises the risk of 13 cancer types – including those of the bowel, womb and breast.
In the past doctors thought cancer was down to genetics, and a diagnosis was simply down to ‘bad luck’. That narrative has changed in recent years, with experts saying the risk could be reduced with a healthy lifestyle.
Smoking is still the biggest avoidable cause, linked to 15 per cent of the 362,000 cancer cases diagnosed in Britain in 2015. Excess weight comes second, linked to 6.3 per cent of cases. But experts believe with plummeting smoking rates and soaring obesity, the percentage of weight-related cases will rise and soon overtake those linked to tobacco.
Professor Linda Bauld, of Cancer Research UK, said: ‘These are extremely worrying numbers that paint a bleak picture, and should be a wake-up call to the Government.
‘The Government simply can’t keep dragging their feet on tackling childhood obesity.’
Dr Kate Allen, of the World Cancer Research Fund, added: ‘Serious action is needed if we are to prevent a rise in obesity-related cancers, as this rise is not inevitable.’
SOURCE: Daily Mail, Ben Spencer