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In the past 24 hours, a number of leading media outlets in the UK have published the latest findings from Cancer Research UK, that claims obesity is a cause of several types of cancer.

The media outlets (the BBC News and the The Guardian to name but two), to make the headline more eye catching, state that obesity is linked with more cases of some cancers than smoking.

That aside, the fact that obesity is linked to cancer(s) and that obesity is preventable is causing much debate among health care professionals.

Cancer Research UK lists the four main cancers linked to obesity in the UK:

Bowel – Of around 42,000 new cases, being overweight or obese causes 4,800, smoking 2,900

Kidney – 12,900 in total; being overweight or obese causes 2,900, smoking 1,600

Liver – 5,900 in total; being overweight or obese causes 1,300 cases, smoking 1,200

Ovarian – 7,500 in total; being overweight or obese causes 490 cases per year, smoking 25

Source: National Cancer Unit

Interestingly, smoking rates are declining and obesity rates are increasing.

Ireland and the UK share many health-related issues, concerns and relative rates of disease per head of population.

So, from an Irish perspective these statistics are worrying and as we’ve written before, those elected to run our country must do more to address the rising obesity rates and the accompanying health problems.

Were the authors of the report at Cancer Research UK to feel obliged to add type 2 diabetes into the mix, then the alarm bells would be ringing much louder. As it’s not a cancer, this could not happen but obesity related cancers and type 2 is set to cost the UK and Irish taxpayer billions, upon billions of £/€ in the coming years.

Check out our post on type 2 diabetes about a major study in Aberdeen that  found that babies born to mothers who were obese during pregnancy are three times more likely to develop type 2 diabetes in later life.

Back to obesity and cancer – the ceo of NHS England, Simon Stevens said: “The NHS can’t win the ‘battle against the bulge’ on its own.

“Families, food businesses and government all need to play their part if we’re to avoid copying America’s damaging and costly example.”

Stevens calls obesity the new smoking. Those of us old enough to remember when smoking was everywhere, from ads /sponsorship to the smokers themselves, can only marvel at how society has embraced non-smoking from the banning of ads / sponsorship to the total ban of smoking in the workplace and public areas.

But look at how long this change took to take hold. For years, experts warned of the dangers of passive smoking and it wasn’t until 2004 that Ireland was the first country in the world to move on banning smoking in the workplace.

Seems like a lifetime ago now.

Will the protracted and prolonged debate and passing of relevant laws take as long for obesity – banning vending machines, banning the sale of sugar-based drinks to children, banning the sale of fried food in school cafeterias, etc – the list goes on.

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