Memorandum by Cancer Research UK (OB 63)
1. Cancer Research UK is the biggest fundraising
charity in the UK and the world's largest independent cancer research
organisation. Cancer Research UK welcomes this inquiry into obesity
and would like to bring to the attention of the Committee the
link between obesity and cancer (1).
2. After smoking, obesity is the second
most important preventable cause of cancer Among non-smokers,
who now comprise the majority of the population, obesity is the
most important preventable cause of cancer. Recent evidence suggests
that obesity increases the cancer death-rate by about 35% in men
and 45% in women (2).
3. The scientific evidence that obesity
is harmful to health and places the individual at increased risk
of cancer has never been stronger. The most recent US data, from
a study of 900,000 adults, indicate that of all cancer deaths
in non-smokers, one in seven in men and one in five in women can
be attributed to overweight and obesity (2). In Britain, where
obesity is less common than in the US, these results imply that
about one in eight of cancer deaths in non-smokers of both sexes
are due to being overweight or obese.
4. The role of obesity in the risk of developing
cancer cannot be overemphasised. Recent reviews have highlighted
significant links with post-menopausal breast cancer and cancers
of the endometrium, gall-bladder and kidney. However, many other
sites also contribute to the overall cancer risk (2, 3), including
prostate cancer in men and cancers of the colon, rectum and pancreas
in both sexes.
5. To date, the link between obesity and
cancer has been poorly acknowledged outside the scientific community.
There is a clear need to raise awareness of this issue both with
healthcare professionals and within the public domain.
6. Cancer Research UK recognises current
Government initiatives to reduce obesity and encourage a healthy
diet. However, we urge the Government to consider measures to
prevent people becoming initially obese. Weight reduction reduces
the chance of developing heart disease or diabetes, but it is
not yet known how much or how quickly an obese person who slims
down actually reduces their risk of dying from cancer.
7. Recent published work outlining the link
between cancer and obesity from which the Committee might be able
to draw conclusions:
1. Peto J 2001 Cancer Epidemiology In The
Last Century And The Next Decade. Nature 411:390-395
2. Calle E et al 2003 Overweight, Obesity,
And Mortality From Cancer In A Prospectively Studied Cohort Of
US Adults. NEJM 348:1625-1938
3. Key T et al 2002 The Effect Of Diet On
Risk Of Cancer. Lancet 360:861-868
4. Bergstorm A et al 2001 Overweight As
An Avoidable Cause Of Cancer In Europe. Int. J. Cancer 91:421-430
5. IARC Report 2001 The Role Of Weight Control
And Physical Activity In Cancer Prevention. IARC Handbooks of
Cancer Prevention, volume 6. http://www.iarc.fr/pageroot/UNITS/Chemoprevention2.html