Smoking is currently linked to 12.4% of cancers in UK women, compared to 7.5% that are caused by obesity, according to the British Journal of Cancer.
Just one in 10 English people will be smokers by 2023, study says
The gap between the two causes in men is wider because more British men smoke, with 17.7% of cancers among men caused by smoking compared to 5.2% by obesity. A similar change in the leading cause of cancer in males is therefore likely to happen much later, the report says.
The charity analysed cancer incidence data between 1979 and 2014 to make the projections and used the results as a further call for national campaigns and legislation to reduce the prevalence of obesity by following the blueprint used for smoking campaigns.
“Obesity is a huge public health threat right now, and it will only get worse if nothing is done,” said Linda Bauld, Cancer Research UK’s prevention expert.
“The decline in smoking is a cause for celebration. It shows how decades of effort to raise awareness about the health risks plus strong political action — including taxation, removing tobacco marketing and a ban on smoking in indoor public places — have paid off,” she added.
“Bold action” needed on obesity
Over a quarter of the UK’s population is obese, and the country has the highest obesity rates in western Europe, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
While the new study focuses on women, Charlotte Bevan, professor of cancer biology at Imperial College London, told CNN that the trends are inevitable across both genders.
“As smoking rates in men fall, we will see the same trend in men and women — with obesity becoming a bigger killer than smoking,” said Bevan who was not involved in the report.
Britain’s health agency has put the country on a diet
“Many of the physical and chemical changes in the body caused by obesity can promote cancer and can actually help certain cancers to spread, such as prostate and breast cancer,” added Bevan, who was not involved in the report.
Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at Public Health England, said the country had seen a “sea change in smoking,” but added: “Bold action is needed to ta women in the UK, a