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Obesity Link To Cancer

15 June 2001

Obesity Link To Cancer

Obesity has been identified by UK researchers as an important factor in many cancer-related deaths.

This fact, linked with a report released today by Agencies for Nutrition Action showing one in two New Zealanders is obese or overweight, is a real cause for concern, says Cancer Society nutrition spokesperson Carolyn Watts.

“The cost in lives from something which is preventable is tragic,” she said.

The British research found one in 10 fatal cancers affecting non-smokers is caused by the sufferer being obese.

The research project leader, Professor Julian Peto said, “In developed countries such as Britain and America, obesity and carcinogenic infections are the major avoidable causes of cancer deaths in non-smokers.”

Some of the cancer deaths linked to obesity are breast and ovarian cancers. It is thought that the excess oestrogen produced by obese patients increases their chance of developing hormone-sensitive versions of these cancers.

“Professor Peto stressed the importance of preventing people becoming obese in the first place, as there was no real evidence that an obese person who slimmed down actually reduced their risk of dying from cancer – although this does reduce the chance of developing heart disease or diabetes,” Ms Watts said.

“This emphasis on prevention is exactly what the ANA’s updated report, Healthy Weight New Zealand, is promoting. The Cancer Society supports the ANA’s call to action to the Government for funding to undertake programmes to address the problem.”

Nutrition plays a part in about one third of all cancers, she said.

“Not eating enough fruit and vegetables causes about 650 cancer deaths each year and not being physically active causes more than 2000 deaths – more than 300 from cancer – each year.

“If you compare this to deaths from second hand smoke – about 400 a year – it is scary stuff,” Ms Watts says.

“Being a non-smoker, maintaining a healthy weight, eating healthy food and being physically active are your best ways to avoid dying early.”


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