Obesity can be more deadly than smoking, warns cancer charity
Obese people now outnumber smokers by three to two in Northern Ireland, Cancer Research UK has warned, as it said obesity causes more cases of some cancers than cigarettes.
It comes as Cancer Research launched its new campaign to highlight the link between obesity and cancer.
Smoking is still the UK's biggest preventable cause of cancer and carries a much higher risk of the disease than obesity.
But obesity is a cause of 13 different types of cancer, and trumps smoking as a leading cause for four of these types - bowel, kidney, ovarian and liver.
According to the latest figures, three in 10 people here are obese.
Excess weight causes around 70 more cases of bowel cancer than smoking locally each year.
The same pattern is true of cancer in the kidneys.
Around 40 more cases are caused by excess weight than by smoking each year, as well as cancer of the ovaries (around five more) and liver (also around five).
The campaign launch will see posters erected across the province.
Margaret Carr of Cancer Research UK said: "People are really not very aware that obesity is an important cause of cancer and it's really about raising awareness.
"There isn't a silver bullet to reduce obesity, but the huge fall in smoking over the years shows that Government-led change works. It was needed to tackle sky-high smoking rates, and now the same is true for obesity."
The research found there are 384,000 obese adults here - 27% of the adult population.
The charity hopes that by comparing smoking to obesity, it can highlight the issue and emphasise that policy change can make an impact.
Ms Carr added: "It's about making people aware of the link that obesity has with causing cancer because most people just really don't know. Last year, only about 6% of people knew of the link between cancer and obesity. After the first campaign we ran last year similar to this, that level had gone up to about 20%, which is great."
National data shows that around one in three adults in the UK is obese.
The Cancer Research UK analysis used data from 2017 to show there were around 13.4m non-smoking adults who were obese.
Meanwhile, 6.3m adult smokers were not obese, and 1.5m adult smokers were.
Ms Carr said in order to combat it, there needs to be changes to advertising, such as a watershed timing for advertising junk food on television and a limit to similar advertising online.