One in five cancer deaths is caused by obesity, which could eventually replace smoking as the leading cause of the disease, leading doctors have reportedly claimed.
The warning was made at the world’s biggest conference on cancer, where it was revealed that obesity is killing tens of thousands of people every year in Britain, according to The Times.
It was also warned that obesity will replace tobacco as the leading preventable cause of the disease, the paper added.
Jennifer Ligibel of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute at Harvard University told the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago: “The average weight of our citizens is increasing dramatically.
“We’ve really got a critical mass of evidence where we see this relationship, the heavier people are more at risk.
“I think people are aware that being overweight increases the risk of heart disease and diabetes but not that it increases the risk of cancer and their risk of dying from cancer.
“It’s the case with breast cancer, prostate cancer, cancer of the colon and all the gynaecological cancers.”
Smoking is believed to be the cause of a quarter of Britain’s 160,000 annual cancer deaths, and Dr Ligibel said obesity could surpass this figure in 10 to 15 years as people get fatter while cutting out cigarettes.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said: “The Secretary of State has already mentioned that tackling obesity and diabetes will be one of his major priorities for the new Government term.”