Cancer research UK found that overweight people have a higher risk of bowel, kidney, ovarian and liver cancers than smokers. The link between obesity and cancer only applies to adults, but it’s also important for adolescents to maintain a healthy weight. In addition, postmenopausal women with breast and pancreas, esophagus, upper abdomen, gallbladder, uterus, thyroid cancer and multiple myeloma and meningioma are associated with obesity. Overweight or obese people do not necessarily develop cancer, but they are at a higher risk.
Figures show that about a third of British adults are obese. Of these, about 13.4 million are non-smokers, and about 1.5 million are obese smokers. Another 6.3 million smokers are not obese. The findings do not suggest a direct comparison between smoking and obesity, both of which are risk factors for cancer. Currently, smoking is the leading preventable cause of cancer in the UK, followed by obesity.
Although researchers have linked obesity to cancer, the physiological mechanism by which obesity causes cancer is not fully understood. One possible reason is that fat cells produce more hormones and growth factors, which increase the risk of cancer by increasing the differentiation of human cells.
Cancer research UK disease prevention expert Linda balder called on the government to do more to tackle obesity. The British medical association believes the government has been slow to curb advertising of unhealthy food and drinks and should make the public aware that obesity is as important a risk factor for cancer as smoking.