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Obesity Could Cause 700,000 New Cancers by 2035

Almost 700,000 new cases of obesity-related cancer could be diagnosed during the next 20 years, according to a new report from Cancer Research and the UK Health Forum.

The “Tipping the Scales: Why Preventing Obesity Makes Economic Sense” report, predicts that if current rising levels of obesity continue, almost three in every four adults will be overweight or obese by 2035.

This would cost the NHS an additional £2.5bn every year on top of what is already spent on obesity-related diseases. Along with an extra 670,000 cases of cancer, rising obesity levels will also lead to millions of new cases of Type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease and stroke.

The 10 types of cancer which could be caused by being overweight or obese, include: cancer of the breast (after menopause), oesophagus, gallbladder, liver, pancreas, kidney, bowel and womb. Being overweight may also lead to aggressive prostate and ovarian cancer.

Researchers generated their findings by using computer models inputted with the latest demographic, disease and health cost data, to produce estimates of preventable costs and obesity-related disease incidence.

Despite the overwhelmingly bleak predictions, the report also suggests that small inroads into combatting obesity levels could, in fact, produce dramatic results. For example, a one per cent reduction in the number of obese or overweight people every year over the next two decades could prevent more than 64,000 cancer cases and generate NHS savings of £300m in 2035 alone.

Although obesity currently accounts for around 24,000 premature deaths a year in the UK, the huge economic burden obesity-related diseases place on the NHS, in terms of health and social care costs, could be prevented if the Government acts now to implement a national strategy to combat unhealthy eating habits.

Amongst other measures, this could include marketing restrictions on unhealthy TV and online food advertising, extending nutritional traffic light-labelling and examining the case for the introduction of taxes on food high in sugar, fat and salt.

Overweight and obesity prevalence is predicted to rise across all income groups but the poorest are likely to continue to suffer the most, with 49 per cent of women from the lowest income bracket predicted to top the scales by 2035. In this year alone, around 440,000 new cases of disease will be caused by obesity.

As we discussed in a previous blog, the battle against obesity must begin in schools as overweight children are more likely to develop into obese adults. If kids are better informed about the serious health consequences of eating unhealthily from an early age, they are less likely to suffer diet-related diseases such as type 2 diabetes and associated complications such as amputations in adulthood.

As part of an urgently needed childhood obesity strategy, it is crucial that the Government addresses childhood eating habits more seriously in schools and takes action to introduce measures designed to help children and young people cut down on the amounts of sugar they consume as part of their daily energy intake.

Survival rates for people with eight of the most common cancers, namely, bowel, bladder, breast, cervical, womb, skin, ovarian and testicular cancers, are three times higher when the disease is diagnosed early.

The chances of surviving cancer have doubled in the last 40 years but one in every two people will still be diagnosed with the disease at some point in their lives. Early diagnosis and ensuring patients have access to the best treatment are both vital to ensure further improvements continue.

Gill Edwards is a senior clinical negligence solicitor at Slater and Gordon in Manchester.

Slater and Gordon help people who have suffered from delayed or wrong diagnosis of cancer due to medical negligence. For a free consultation call our medical negligence solicitors on freephone 0800 916 9049 or contact us online.

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