Around 40% of Brits not aware that being overweight increases cancer risk

5 January 2016

Britain is in the grip of an obesity crisis, however 41% of the adult population is not aware that being overweight increases the risk of developing cancer, a poll for World Cancer Research Fund has found1.

41% of Brits not aware that being overweight increases cancer risk infographicThe figures were described by the charity as ‘alarming’, given that 62 per cent2 of the English adult population is currently overweight or obese and therefore at an increased risk of developing 10 different cancers including bowel, breast (postmenopausal) and pancreas due to their weight3.

The YouGov poll also found that over half of Britons (54%) are not aware that physical inactivity can increase the risk of cancer and that around two fifths are not aware of the increased cancer risks linked to eating a poor diet (40%) or drinking alcohol (43%).

After not smoking, being a healthy weight is the most important thing people can do to reduce their cancer risk. World Cancer Research Fund estimates that about a third of the most common cancers could be prevented through choosing a healthy diet, being physically active and maintaining a healthy body weight – about 84,000 cases a year in the UK.

The charity has launched a campaign, ‘I CAN’, to improve these low levels of awareness and encourage people to take action. The campaign will help people to stick to healthy New Year’s resolutions that could reduce their cancer risk. People can sign up to receive email tips on weight, diet, alcohol and physical activity by visiting www.wcrf.org/ICAN.

Amanda McLean, Director at World Cancer Research Fund UK, said:
“It is worrying that so many people are still not aware that being overweight can increase their chances of developing cancer.

“In fact our research has shown that about 24,000 cancer cases in the UK could be avoided if everyone was a healthy weight. This New Year we hope people will get behind our campaign, ‘I CAN’, and make small changes to their lifestyles – they could make a huge difference to their health.

“It doesn’t have to be anything too difficult – cutting down on high calorie foods and sugary drinks, drinking less alcohol, or even 10 to 15 extra minutes each day of physical activities such as brisk walking could all decrease a person’s cancer risk.”

When comparing England, Scotland and Wales, the poll showed that Welsh adults are the least aware that being overweight (51% aware), physically inactive (44% aware), eating a poor diet (59% aware) and drinking alcohol (52% aware) all increase the risk of developing cancer. Regionally, adults in Yorkshire and the Humber are the least aware of the link between physical inactivity and the risk of cancer (59% not aware compared to a national average of 54%) and adults in the West Midlands are the least aware that drinking alcohol (54% not aware compared to a national average of 43%) increases the risk of developing cancer. Adults in the East of England are the least aware of the cancer risk of eating a poor diet (47% not aware compared to a national average of 40%).

For more information contact:
Melanie Purnode, Press and PR Manager, WCRF on m.purnode@wcrf.org

Notes to editors:

About World Cancer Research Fund

For the past 25 years, World Cancer Research Fund has been the UK’s leading charity dedicated to the prevention of cancer through diet, weight and physical activity. By funding and supporting research, developing policy recommendations and providing health information, we have ensured that people can make informed lifestyle choices to reduce their risk of developing a preventable cancer. As we look forward to our next 25 years, our scientific research ensures that we will continue to have the latest and most authoritative information at our fingertips, all underpinned by independent expert advice.

Our analysis of global research shows that a third of the most common cancers are preventable through a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight and regular physical activity.

For more information visit www.wcrf-uk.org, follow us on Twitter at http://twitter.com/wcrf_uk, read our blog at www.wcrf-uk.org/uk/blog or visit our Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/wcrfuk.

About I CAN:

I CAN… is a World Cancer Research Fund UK campaign helping people to stick to realistic New Year’s resolutions that could reduce their risk of cancer. People can sign up to receive tips on weight, diet, alcohol and physical activity via email by visiting www.wcrf.org/ICAN.

 

1 YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2082 adults. Undertaken between 20th and 23 November 2015. The survey was carried out online. Figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+). Available from World Cancer Research Fund
2 Health & Social Care Information Centre, Statistics on Obesity, Physical Activity and Diet, 3 March 2015, http://www.hscic.gov.uk/catalogue/PUB16988/obes-phys-acti-diet-eng-2015.pdf
3 World Cancer Research Fund, Cancer Prevention & Survival, December 2015, http://www.wcrf.org/sites/default/files/CUP-Summary-Report.pdf#page=5