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Obese Scots at risk of cancer, charity warns

This news post is almost 8 years old

Most Scots don't realise that being overweight can increase their chances of getting a range of different cancers, new research finds

Three quarters of people don't know that being obese can increase their chances of getting cancer, according to new figures from Cancer Research UK.

A survey of Scots found that as well as general ignorance about obesity and cancer, more than three-quarters of those asked didn’t know obesity was linked specifically to ovarian cancer.

Seven in 10 people didn’t know there was a link with breast cancer and around half didn’t know pancreatic cancer was linked to obesity.

More than a quarter of all adults in Scotland are estimated to be obese, and this has a real impact on their risk of developing cancer

There was better awareness of the link with bowel cancer with 60 per cent of Scots surveyed knowing the association. Also, 54 per cent of those surveyed linked obesity with liver cancer.

Being overweight or obese is the single biggest preventable cause of cancer after smoking and is linked to an estimated 18,100 cancer cases each year in the UK. Being overweight or obese is linked to 10 types of cancers, including breast, bowel, womb and oesophageal.

A recent report by Cancer Research UK and the UK Health Forum estimated that if current trends of being overweight and obese continued, there would be a further 670,000 cancer cases over the next 20 years. The report also found that the number of obese people would be higher among lower income groups.

Professor Linda Bauld, Cancer Research UK's expert in cancer prevention based at the University of Stirling, said: "Most people in Scotland don't make the link between being overweight or obese as a risk factor for cancer and that's worrying. Being overweight increases the risk of a number of cancers including some of the most common in Scotland like breast cancer.

"The Scottish Government needs to take responsibility for informing the public of the link and to take action to tackle the obesity epidemic. We know that an obesity strategy is currently being developed by them and we hope to see that published soon. It needs to include measures that protect children from junk food marketing and make it easier for families to buy healthy food. These measures could make a real difference, particularly to protect children's health now and in the future."

Victoria Steven, Cancer Research UK spokesperson for Scotland, said: “More than a quarter of all adults in Scotland are estimated to be obese, and this has a real impact on their risk of developing cancer. Eating a healthy balanced diet and becoming more active can help people to keep a healthy weight. And encouraging children and teenagers to do the same can help them keep to a healthy weight later on in life.”

As well as encouraging the Scottish Government to introduce a robust obesity strategy, Cancer Research UK is also calling on the UK Government to ban junk food TV advertising before 9pm. Scots can take action to help tackle junk food marketing to children by emailing their MP at