Scots 'Unaware Of Link Between Obesity And Cancer'

9 September 2016, 07:08 | Updated: 9 September 2016, 07:33

Three quarters of Scots do not know that obesity causes cancer, according to new research.

Obesity is a major cause of illness and death, and 10 types of cancer - including breast, bowel, womb and oesophageal - could be caused by being overweight.

But figures released by Cancer Research UK show that 74% of people are unaware of the link between obesity and the disease.

Their survey found that, as well as general ignorance about the connection, 77% of those asked did not know that obesity was specifically linked to ovarian cancer.

Almost three quarters, 71% did not know about the link with breast cancer and more than half, 53%, were unaware that pancreatic cancer is connected to obesity.

There was better awareness of the link with bowel cancer, with three-fifths of Scots surveyed knowing about the association. Some 54% linked obesity with liver cancer.

More than a quarter, 28%, of all adults in Scotland are estimated to be obese.

The charity said that being overweight or obese is the single biggest preventable cause of cancer after smoking and is linked to more than 18,000 cancer cases each year in the UK.

If the epidemic is not tackled there will be 670,000 additional cases of obesity-caused cancer in the UK over the next 20 years, which could cost the health service an extra £2.5 billion, the charity has warned.

Professor Linda Bauld, the charity's expert in cancer prevention based at the University of Stirling, said: "Most people in Scotland don't make the link between being overweight or obese as a risk factor for cancer and that's worrying.

"Being overweight increases the risk of a number of cancers including some of the most common in Scotland like breast cancer.

"The Scottish Government needs to take responsibility for informing the public of the link and to take action to tackle the obesity epidemic. We know that an obesity strategy is currently being developed by them and we hope to see that published soon.

"It needs to include measures that protect children from junk food marketing and make it easier for families to buy healthy food. These measures could make a real difference, particularly to protect children's health now and in the future.''

The YouGov survey for the charity took place from February 24 to March 8 and is based on a sample of 280 adults north of the border.

Public Health Minister Aileen Campbell said: "Tackling obesity and encouraging physical activity are central priorities of the Scottish Government's public health policy.

"The well-established link between obesity and cancer is one of the main reasons why we are determined to tackle this issue.

"We are committed to refresh our own strategy on diet and obesity to reinforce the promotion of unhealthy foods and work with the food and drink industry.

"As part of that, we are looking at what further effective actions we can take within the powers available to us, including action on the use of multi-buy promotions.

"We are also engaging with the food and drink industry on action to offer healthier choices, rebalance promotions, and reformulate products, with a focus on reducing calories, salt, fats and added sugar.

She added: "We were extremely disappointed that, in the UK Government's recent Childhood Obesity Strategy, there was no commitment to ban junk food advertising before the 9pm watershed.

"Broadcasting is reserved to the UK Government and we have consistently called on them to take this step, which we believe would greatly reduce children's exposure to the marketing of unhealthy food and drink.

"This year we launched our £100 million Cancer Strategy, which will serve as a blueprint for the future of cancer services in Scotland, improving the prevention, detection, diagnosis, treatment and aftercare of those affected by the disease.''