An alarming increase in obesity in UK men is placing many at an increased risk of a number of cancers, with a diet full of junk food and lack of exercise cited as the main culprits, revealed a Cancer Research report yesterday.
Latest figures show male obesity rates in the UK are fast approaching those in America - dubbed the fat capital of the world, said the report. Currently, around 20 per cent of men in the UK are obese and a further 50 per cent are overweight.
The summary has been compiled for Cancer Research UK to discover whether British males can be persuaded to ditch their couch potato lifestyles and take regular exercise - which experts believe will be key in controlling the problem.
Professor Jane Wardle, director of the Cancer Research UK Health Behaviour Unit, says: "Obesity is avoidable and men can really do something to reverse the trends we are seeing. Balancing a healthy diet with regular vigorous exercise is the key to preventing weight gain.
"Worryingly, evidence shows that young men are not eating as healthily as they should and are less likely to take part in physical activity as they get older. Encouraging men of all ages to eat healthily and take regular exercise will reduce the obesity figures."
The role of obesity in the risk of developing cancer cannot be overemphasised, states the report. Recent reviews have highlighted significant links between obesity and post-menopausal breast cancer and cancers of the endometrium, gall-bladder and kidney. In addition, the report notes that overall cancer risk is also increased for prostate cancer in men and cancers of the colon, rectum and pancreas in both sexes.
Cancer Research UK funded scientist, Professor Julian Peto, based at the Institute of Cancer Research and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, says: "Obesity increases the risk of developing several cancers. So it's disturbing to see that the condition has increased by more than 60 per cent in men over the last decade. About 1 in 8 of all cancer deaths in British non-smokers may be due to being overweight or obese."
According to experts preventing weight problems in childhood will be the way to stop the rates of obesity soaring in the future, but for now the destiny of obese people lies in their own hands. Prof Wardle is currently running an obesity prevention study for children with the first results due to be published next year.
Dr Richard Sullivan, head of Clinical Programmes at Cancer Research UK, echoes the opinions of Wardle, saying: "The rise in obesity in men is due to a combination of increasingly sedentary lifestyles and high consumption of junk foods. Men are renowned for turning a blind eye when it comes to our health. Research shows that overweight men can be blissfully unaware of their weight problem, and those few that do realise it's a health issue do nothing about it."
The news comes in the launch week of Cancer Research UK's Cycle for Life in association with Nivea for Men, which urges men to step up their fitness levels to cut down their chances of getting the disease, whilst raising funds for research into the cancers that affect men.
The 18-ride series follows new statistics which reveal that 48 per cent of young men are failing to take the recommended 30 minutes of moderate activity on most days of the week.
Professor Julian Peto will today - 26 June 2003 - be presenting data on the link between obesity and cancer for Cancer Research UK to the House of Commons Health Committee for their enquiry into obesity.