Cancer Research UK launches new obesity awareness campaign

Cancer Research UK launched a new campaign in the South West on Monday (24 September) to raise awareness of the link between obesity and cancer.

It coincides with the publication of a Cancer Research UK report* which shows the scale of the problem.

And the charity has renewed its call for Government action, particularly on ‘junk food’ advertising to children and price promotions on ‘unhealthy’ foods in supermarkets.

According to the latest Cancer Research UK figures, obesity is set to overtake smoking as the biggest preventable cause of cancer among women in the UK in 25 years’ time.

If trends continue as projected, by 2043 excess weight could cause even more cases of cancer than smoking in women.**

More than half (54%) of adult women in the South West are overweight or obese. *** while almost 3 in 20 (13 per cent) of adult women in the South West currently smoke cigarettes.
(Two thirds (66%) of adult men in the South West are overweight or obese; 3 in 20 (15%) of adult men in the South West currently smoke cigarettes)
Obesity has a greater effect on women, even though more males than females are overweight or obese. This is because some of the most common obesity-related cancers – such as breast and womb cancers - predominantly affect women.

Being overweight or obese as an adult increases the risk of 13 different types of cancer including breast, bowel and kidney cancer.  However, only around one in seven people in the UK are aware of the link.

For this reason, Cancer Research UK is running a month-long awareness campaign in the South West to highlight the risk.

Huge posters will be on display at prominent sites across the region, including at bus stops and on billboards around the region.

The intriguing posters highlight the gaps in people’s knowledge where, like a word game, missing letters in the word ‘obesity’ challenge the public to guess what is the biggest preventable cause of cancer after smoking.

Alison Birkett, Cancer Research UK spokesperson for the South West, said: “Fifty years ago most people didn’t know that smoking causes cancer. Today, we’re bringing the link between obesity and cancer to the public’s attention to ensure that people are aware of the facts.

“With the bombardment of junk food marketing and the high calorific content of many readily available foods, there are so many things working against us when it comes to keeping a healthy weight. By highlighting the issue, our campaign hopes to encourage Government action to tackle obesity through changes which will make it easier for all of us to make healthy choices.”

As well as aiming to increase awareness, the charity is also calling on the UK Government to build on the lessons learned from restrictions on tobacco advertising, and other aspects of smoking prevention, to help reduce the number of weight-related cancers.

These measures include helping to protect children by introducing a 9.00pm watershed on junk food advertising, because being overweight as a child means an individual is five times more likely to be overweight as an adult.

Professor Linda Bauld, Cancer Research UK’s prevention expert, said: “Obesity is a huge public health threat right now, and it will only get worse if nothing is done. The UK Government must build on the lessons of smoking prevention to reduce the number of weight-related cancers by making it easier to keep a healthy weight and protect children as those who are overweight are five times more likely to be so as an adult.

“That’s why we are raising awareness of the link between cancer and obesity and calling for measures to protect children like a ban on junk food adverts before 9pm and for restrictions on price promotions of ‘less healthy’ products.

“The decline in smoking is a cause for celebration. It shows how decades of effort to raise awareness about the health risks plus strong political action including taxation, removing tobacco marketing and a ban on smoking in indoor public places, have paid off. But, just as there is still more to do to support people to quit smoking, we also need to act now to halt the tide of weight-related cancers and ensure this projection never becomes a reality.”