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NEWS: ‘62 per cent of working age adults obese’, finds study

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Being obese or overweight could soon overtake smoking as the leading cause of preventable cancer, according to a major new study.

62 per cent of people of working age (or more than 6 in 10 adults) are now classified as overweight or obese, says Cancer Research UK’s study of cancer data from 2015.

Although smoking is still the leading cause of preventable cancer (15.1 per cent of cases), the second biggest preventable cause was being overweight or obese, causing 6.3 percent of all cancers.

Numbers of people registering overweight or obese also rose by ten per cent since 1994 and Cancer Research predicts that three in four adults will be overweight or obese by 2035, if current trends continue.

Being overweight is the second biggest preventable cause of cancer in the UK. Photograph: iStock / Sasha Suzi

Cancer Research UK chief executive Sir Harpal Kumar said: "Obesity is potentially the new smoking, if we're not careful.”

“Leading a healthy life doesn’t guarantee that a person won’t get cancer, but it can stack the odds in your favour. These figures show that we each can take positive steps to help reduce our individual risk of the disease,” he added.

Obesity is generally caused by eating too much and moving too little and Gavin Bradley, director of Active Working, which is holding On Your Feet Britain day on 27 April to encourage workers to ‘wiggle it, waggle it, just not sit on it’ said that the workplace needed to adapt to the known risks of inactivity.

“We need to take drastic actions to create a working culture that does not accept prolonged and excessive sitting. We all need to sit from time to time, but in moderation and frequently broken up so our metabolism other important physiological functions can be activated.”

He said that the average office worker sits for 10 hours a day, 65 - 70% of this sitting time taking place at work of which more than 50% is accumulated in prolonged periods of sustained “Binge”.

“Reducing office desk sitting has become one of the key challenges and strongest messages in the fight for healthier workplace surrounding,” he said.

Employees are encouraged to integrate activity in their working day for On Your Feet Britain. Activities and advice include taking regular breaks to stand every 30 minutes, using the stairs rather than lift and conducting walking meetings.

According to government chief medical office guidelines, adults should aim to be active daily, adding up to at least 150 minutes (2½ hours) of moderate intensity activity each week.

The UK is one of the most obese countries in the world. It has the sixth highest levels after the US on 38%, Mexico, New Zealand, Hungary and Australia, according to NHS Digital’s 'Statistics on Obesity, Physical Activity and Diet study, published 4 April.

The NHS study also found there were 617 thousand admissions in NHS hospitals where obesity was a factor last year - an increase of 18 per cent on 2015/16.

Obesity causes 13 types of cancer, including bowel, breast, womb and kidney.  The results of Cancer Research’s study, published in the British Journal of Cancer on 23 March, suggest that more than 1 in 20 cancer cases could be prevented by maintaining a healthy weight.

Cancer Research study here

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