Link between obesity and cancer is not widely recognized

November 17, 2017
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

A new study published in the Journal of Public Health has shown that the majority of people in the United Kingdom do not understand the connection between weight issues and cancer. Obesity is associated with thirteen types of cancer, including those of the breast, kidney, bowel, and womb. However, after surveying 3293 adults, taken as representative of the UK population, researchers found that only a quarter of respondents were aware of the link between obesity and cancer.

Obesity is the second biggest preventable cause of after smoking, leading to approximately 3.4 million deaths worldwide. Despite the fact that 63% of the English and 67% of the Scottish adult population is overweight, only 25.4% of this population listed cancer as a health issue related to being overweight when asked an unprompted question.

There were also several misconceptions about cancer types linked to . Researchers found greater levels of awareness about cancers of the digestive system organs, such as bowel and kidney, than for those of the reproductive organs, such as womb or breast.

The study's authors also examined the impact of respondents' socio-economic background and found that those in a lower income group were more likely to be overweight or obese and were less aware of the link between weight issues and cancer. Modelled projections show obesity trends will increase by 2035 and the gap between the highest and lowest income groups will widen further.

Although there are currently several healthcare initiatives to address obesity issues, the study found that not all participants had seen a healthcare professional in the last 12 months. Of those who had, only 17.4% had received advice about their weight, despite 48.4% being overweight.

Those who received advice were mainly instructed on how to lose weight, rather than given information about the range of health issues associated with being or obese.

Dr Jyotsna Vohra, from Cancer Research UK and study co-author, said: "We're very concerned that most people simply don't connect cancer with obesity. This study shows that only one in four know that excess weight increases the risk of cancer so we need to make the link very clear. This may go some way towards tackling the which all too often begins in childhood."

"Our study also showed that GPs aren't discussing with patients who are too heavy as often as they might, Dr Vohra said "GPs have very little time during their appointments and should have more support to introduce sensitive issues such as obesity, with patients."

Explore further: Three in four don't know obesity causes cancer

More information: Lucie Hooper et al, Public awareness and healthcare professional advice for obesity as a risk factor for cancer in the UK: a cross-sectional survey, Journal of Public Health (2017). DOI: 10.1093/pubmed/fdx145

Related Stories

Three in four don't know obesity causes cancer

September 9, 2016
Three out of four (75 per cent) people in the UK are unaware of the link between obesity and cancer, according to a new Cancer Research UK report published today (Friday).

Obesity linked to 13 types of cancer (Update)

October 3, 2017
There's a link between obesity and 40 percent of all the cancers diagnosed in the United States, health officials reported Tuesday.

Adult weight gain could increase cancer risk

November 7, 2016
Substantial weight gain over many years increases the risk of obesity-related cancers in men by 50 per cent and in women by almost 20 per cent, according to new research presented at the National Cancer Research Institute's ...

Where body fat is carried can predict cancer risk

May 23, 2017
Scientists have found that carrying fat around your middle could be as good an indicator of cancer risk as body mass index (BMI), according to research published in the British Journal of Cancer today.

Central obesity ups mortality across BMI range

April 25, 2017
(HealthDay)—Central obesity is associated with increased risk of mortality even in normal-weight individuals, according to a study published online April 24 in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

Duration of adulthood overweight and obesity linked to cancer risk in US women

August 16, 2016
The duration of overweight and obesity in women's adult lives is associated with cancer risk, according to a longitudinal study published in PLOS Medicine. The study, led by Melina Arnold of the International Agency for Research ...

Recommended for you

Parents modeling healthy behaviors leads to markedly better outcomes for children

December 13, 2017
When trying to help children lose weight, involving a parent in the treatment makes the entire family healthier, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have shown.

'Obesity paradox' not found when measuring new cases of cardiovascular disease

December 7, 2017
Although obesity is a well-known risk factor for getting cardiovascular disease, a controversial body of research suggests that obesity may actually be associated with improved survival among people who have cardiovascular ...

Harmful effects of being overweight underestimated

December 1, 2017
The harmful effects of being overweight have been underestimated, according to a new study that analysed body mass index (BMI), health and mortality data in around 60,000 parents and their children, to establish how obesity ...

More than half of US children will have obesity as adults if current trends continue

November 29, 2017
If current trends in child obesity continue, more than 57% of today's children in the U.S. will have obesity at age 35, according to a new study from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Exercise alone does not lead to weight loss in women—in the medium term

November 23, 2017
Knowing whether or not exercise causes people to lose weight is tricky. When people take up exercise, they often restrict their diet – consciously or unconsciously – and this can mask the effects of the exercise. In our ...

Mindfulness training shows promise for maintaining weight loss

November 23, 2017
Can mindfulness training help overweight people shed pounds and keep them off? McGill University researchers surveyed the growing body of studies investigating that question, and came away encouraged.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Osiris1
not rated yet Nov 19, 2017
the fat woman in that picture shows droops at the elbows. she probably also has fluid accumulations in the ankles and maybe over the knees.......... congestive heart failure symptoms?

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.