Obesity is cancer "time-bomb"

LONDON (Reuters) - Rising obesity levels mean a cancer “time-bomb” is ticking, a health expert said on Monday.

A man eats his lunch in a file photo. Rising obesity levels mean a cancer "time-bomb" is ticking, a health expert said on Monday. REUTERS/Will Burgess

Greg Martin, science and research manager at the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF), warned that urgent action is needed if the country is to avert a surge in cancer cases.

Research shows that up to 40 percent of cancers could be prevented through a healthy diet and regular exercise, but Britons are failing to look after their health, Martin said.

“There has been plenty of attention recently on the problems of obesity, but a lot of people still do not realise how closely obesity is linked to cancer,” he said.

“People getting fatter will lead to an increase in the number of cancer cases as surely as night follows day.”

“You also have to add into the mix the fact that cancer is largely an older person’s disease -- and the UK has an ageing population.

“So, if you have an ageing population that is getting more obese, there could be really serious consequences in terms of the number of people developing cancer if people do not act now: it’s a cancer time-bomb.”

Martin made the warning at the start of Cancer Prevention Week, organised by the WCRF.

A medical doctor, Martin oversees the work of an international panel of 21 health experts and six industry figures from the World Health Organisation and children’s charity UNICEF, among others.

Some 30 percent of children in Britain are obese or overweight -- the worst rate of obesity among children in Europe.

To try to address the problem, the UK’s media regulator Ofcom plans to ban “junk food” TV adverts aimed at school-age children in Britain from next year.