The world's rising obesity epidemic is expected to overtake cigarette smoking as the leading cause of cancer, researchers announced last week.
Doctors warn that people have replaced one bad habit—cigarette smoking—with overeating, poor food choices and sedentary lifestyles.
According to the Telegraph, cancer experts speaking at the recent American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual conference in Chicago said “staggering” obesity rates are now the leading cause for ten common types of cancer.
Dr. Clifford Hudis, a New York breast cancer specialist, said young people are now more likely to get diseases that had historically been most common in older people. “Being lean doesn’t mean you won’t get these diseases, necessarily, but being obese might mean you get them earlier in life,” the former ASCO president told the conference. “So you might get colon cancer at 60 instead of 80.”
The researchers noted some cancers are being diagnosed up to two decades earlier than in previous years.
“We have seen rising prevalence of obesity over a relatively short time – in a matter of decades it's gone from relatively uncommon to around one in three adults being obese in the US – and the UK is not far behind,” Jennifer Ligibel, a cancer specialist from Harvard University, said to the ASCO.
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The researchers noted while smoking poses a greater risk than excess weight on an individual level, obesity is “fast becoming the key lifestyle driver of cancer,” the Telegraph reports.
“We are at a critical point now; we cannot afford to ignore this anymore,” Ligibel said. She says if current diet and lifestyle trends don’t change, obesity will overtake smoking in the next decade as the leading cause of most cancers.
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