Does obesity increase risk of cancer?

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Cancer Research UK quote: "Obesity is the UK's biggest cause of cancer after smoking"

According to a recent study by Cancer Research UK, millennials are “set to top the obesity chart before reaching middle age”.

With “more than seven in ten people born between the early eighties and mid-nineties estimated to being overweight by the time they reach the ages of thirty five – forty four”, there are concerns that the risks of being diagnosed with cancer will increase dramatically.

Evidence also shows that just 15% of Britons know that obesity increases the risk of cancer. In response to this Cancer Research UK launched a campaign to highlight the link between obesity and cancer. The ad and video campaign asks the question “Guess what is the biggest preventable cause of cancer after smoking” to show that that obesity is in fact the UK’s biggest cause of cancer after smoking. 

Obesity is considered a risk factor for many diseases, including pancreatic cancer. A study in 2011 estimated that around 12 per cent of all pancreatic cancers in the UK are attributable to being overweight or having obesity. Another study in 2008 found that obese women who carry most of their excess weight around their waist rather than their hips are “seventy per cent more likely to develop pancreatic cancer”.

In addition to obesity, there are several other risk factors associated with pancreatic cancer, including: smoking; diabetes and chronic pancreatitis. You can find out more about the risk factors of pancreatic cancer here.

Can losing weight reduce the risk of cancer?

According to Cancer Research UK the simple answer is yes. If you are overweight, you can reduce your risk by avoiding gaining more weight.

All the research carried out so far suggests that an increased risk can start to fall with weight loss. Plus, the best way to lose weight for most people is by eating and drinking healthily and moving more, all of which can reduce the risk of cancer independently.

We do understand that losing weight and keeping it off can be incredibly hard. We have a few tips for you below.

Tips for maintaining a healthy weight and eating a healthy diet.

Keeping a healthy weight not only cuts your risk of pancreatic cancer but could also reduce your risk of nine other types of cancer too.

There are also lots of tools and apps to help you, including:


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“Obesity is the biggest risk of cancer after smoking” 

Smoking is the only confirmed environmental cause of pancreatic cancer and 29 per cent of cases are caused by smoking.

Here are some steps to help you stop smoking:

If you are a smoker, you can talk to your doctor about strategies to help you stop, including support groups, medications and nicotine replacement therapy.

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Click for NHS choices web page

At Pancreatic Cancer Action, we are determined to get more patients diagnosed early and in time for life-saving surgery.  We do this by funding research into early diagnosis, educating medical professionals and raising awareness of signs and symptoms.

For more information on the symptoms associated with pancreatic cancer please click here.