Overtaking smoking: Obesity could become chief avoidable cancer cause

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Cancer Research UK found overexposure to UV radiation caused about 13,600 cases of melanoma skin cancer a year - or 3.8% of all cancer cases. The leading causes of preventable cancer in the United Kingdom are smoking, excess weight and over-exposure to ultra-violet radiation.

It highlights the well-known dangers of smoking, with nearly half of all cases of cancer each year put down to tobacco.

More than a third (37.7%) of cancer cases a year could be avoided by making healthier lifestyle choices, according to a study by Cancer Research UK and several other organisations.

Britain's obesity crisis is to blame for 23,000 cases of cancer a year and is on course to overtake smoking as the main preventable cause of the disease, researchers have warned.

However, it has also raised the risk of developing the killer disease from being overweight and obese - with 572 new cancer cases attributed to this.

Linda Bauld, Cancer Research UK's cancer prevention expert, told The Times: 'As a charity we have a responsibility to communicate evidence about risk.

Processed meat was found to have caused 1.5% of cancers, while air pollution caused 1%. Most of these cases are linked to Human Papillomavirus (HPV) and H. Pylori.

The research team says the new United Kingdom cancer rates have increased by 7% over the past decade which could be increased by about 2% every year.

Sir Harpal Kumar, the charity's chief executive, said: 'Leading a healthy life doesn't guarantee that a person won't get cancer, but it can stack the odds in your favour.

Researchers found that obesity could soon become riskier than smoking and should be called "the new smoking".

Public Health Minister Aileen Campbell said: "We have recently consulted on a package of bold measures which includes world leading proposals to restrict the promotion and advertising of foods high in fat, salt and sugar, including bargain buy special offers on junk food".

"We have already reached a record low in the numbers of teenagers smoking, and halved the number of children being exposed to second hand smoke".

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