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75% admit ignorance over obesity link to cancer, survey shows

By Cate McCurry

Published 09/09/2016

'Being overweight or obese is linked to 10 types of cancers, including breast, bowel, womb and oesophageal'
'Being overweight or obese is linked to 10 types of cancers, including breast, bowel, womb and oesophageal'

Almost three out of four people in Northern Ireland are unaware of the link between obesity and cancer, according to latest figures.

The survey also discovered that 75% of people here didn't know obesity was linked specifically to ovarian cancer.

New figures released today by Cancer Research UK reveal how people here associate obesity with different types of cancer.

Around 25% of all adults in Northern Ireland are obese which impacts on their risk of developing cancer.

Being overweight or obese is linked to 10 types of cancers, including breast, bowel, womb and oesophageal.

The YouGov survey was carried out from February 24 until March 8 earlier this year and based on a small sample of 92 people.

Alison Cox, director of prevention at Cancer Research UK, said it was the Government's responsibility to make the public aware of the risks.

"Cancer isn't at the forefront of people's minds when talking about obesity and that's really concerning," she said.

"It's the Government's responsibility to inform the public of the link and also to take action to tackle the obesity epidemic, starting with the health of the nation's children. It's great the Government's childhood obesity plan includes a sugary drinks tax, but it's not enough to curb the rising tide of ill-health.

"The Government acknowledges that marketing junk food to kids is a problem and has removed these adverts during children's programming. We also need to see these restrictions during family viewing time before 9pm if we want to make a difference to children's health."

The report further found that around two thirds (67%) didn't know there was a link with breast cancer and around half (49%) didn't know pancreatic cancer was linked to obesity.

There was better awareness of the link with bowel cancer with 65% of those surveyed in Northern Ireland knowing the association.

Also, 59% of people linked obesity with liver cancer. Being overweight or obese is the single biggest preventable cause of cancer after smoking and is linked to an estimated 18,100 cancer cases each year in the UK.

A recent report by Cancer Research UK and the UK Health Forum estimated that if current trends of being overweight and obese continued, there would be a further 670,000 cancer cases over the next 20 years.

The report also found that the number of obese people would be higher among lower income groups.

Cancer Research UK is calling on people across Northern Ireland to email their MP to help tackle junk food marketing to children.

Commenting on the results, Jean Walsh, Cancer Research UK spokesperson for Northern Ireland, said: "Eating a healthy balanced diet and becoming more active can help people to keep a healthy weight.

"Encouraging children and teenagers to do the same can help them keep to a healthy weight later on in life."

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