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Cancer risks increased in overweight

People with a BMI over 25 are at increased risk of developing a wide range of cancers according to leading oncologist

Around 19,000 people each year in the UK are diagnosed with cancer that could have been prevented if they were a healthy weight, according to leading cancer scientist, Professor Martin Wiseman.

Speaking ahead of Cancer Prevention Week (May 11-15), Professor Wiseman, medical and scientific adviser for World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) said that about 18,600 of UK cancer cases, including cancer of the breast, bowel, oesophagus, kidney, pancreas, endometrium and gallbladder, could be prevented if everyone had a body mass index (BMI) of less than 25.

"The stark fact is that every year in this country, many thousands of people are diagnosed with cancer that could have been prevented if they had maintained a healthy weight," said Professor Wiseman. "This is a real cause for concern and the problem is only going to get worse if the number of people who are overweight continues to rise."

Scientists estimate that someone at the top of the healthy weight range is 15 per cent more likely to develop bowel cancer than someone at the bottom of the healthy weight range, prompting WCRF to recommend that people stay as lean as possible, maintaining a BMI of between 18.5 and 25, in an attempt to reduce the number of cancer diagnoses.

"The evidence that being overweight puts you at increased risk of cancer is stronger now than before and we now say that, after not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight is the most important thing you can do for cancer prevention. This is the reason we recommend people aim to be as lean as possible without being underweight," said Professor Wiseman.

Research has revealed that 40 per cent of people remain unaware of the link between excess body fat and cancer, which means more needs to be done to highlight the risks associated with having a BMI over 25. 

11th May 2009

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