OBESE women are 40 per cent more likely to develop cancer linked to their weight than their slim counterparts, scientists have said.
Being very overweight increases the risk of developing at least seven forms of the disease – including tumours in the bowel, breasts, gallbladder, womb, kidneys, pancreas and gullet.
Small changes that you can maintain can have an impactDr Julie Sharp, Cancer Research UK
And overweight women have around a one in four risk of falling victim to a cancer associated with their excess pounds during their lifetime.
For every 1,000 of obese women, 274 will be diagnosed with a bodyweight-linked cancer compared with 194 in the same number of healthy weight women.
About a quarter of British women are obese. In the UK, it is estimated 18,000 women develop cancer as a result of being overweight or obese each year.
There are different ways being very overweight could lead to cancer, with one possibility being fat cells’ production of hormones – especially oestrogen – which is believed to fuel tumours.
Dr Julie Sharp, of Cancer Research UK, said: “Losing weight isn’t easy but you don’t have to join a gym and run miles every day or give up your favourite food forever.
“Just making small changes that you can maintain in the long term can have a real impact.
“To get started try getting off the bus a stop earlier and cutting down on fatty and sugary foods.
“Losing weight takes time so gradually build on these to achieve a healthier lifestyle that you can maintain.
“And find out about local services, which can provide help and support to make lifestyle changes over the long term.
“We know our cancer risk depends on a combination of our genes, our environment and other aspects of our lives, many of which we can control – helping people understand how they can reduce their risk of developing cancer in the first place remains crucial in tackling the disease.
“Lifestyle changes – like not smoking, keeping a healthy weight, eating a healthy diet and cutting back on alcohol – are the big opportunities for us all to personally reduce our cancer risk.
“Making these changes is not a guarantee against cancer, but it stacks the odds in our favour.”
Last year research showed women are twice as likely to have cancer linked to their weight.
Globally, 500,000 cancer cases could be attributed to patients being overweight, the World Health Organisation found.
In a league table of 176 nations compiled using the study data, British women came 38th.
Top of the list was Barbados, where 12.7 per cent of female cancer cases were blamed on obesity.
Postmenopausal breast cancer is the most common type of female cancer – and around 10 per cent of cases could have been prevented by having a healthy weight, scientists say.
Experts say if Britons continue to pile on the pounds it will lead to 4,000 extra cases a year by 2026.
A quarter of cancers attributable to obesity could have been prevented if populations had the same average body mass index they had 30 years ago.
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