More than seven out of 10 millennials are set to be overweight or obese by the time they are between 35 and 44, a charity has predicted.

Cancer Research UK estimates that those born between the early 80s and mid 90s will be the most overweight generation since current records began - compared to around five in 10 ‘baby boomers’ born between 1945-55 who were overweight or obese at the same age - and putting themselves at increased risk of a number of types of cancer.

The charity is now launching a nation-wide campaign on posters, social and digital media and on the radio, to warn that obesity is the second biggest preventable cause of cancer after smoking - a statistic which has shocked those surveyed. Being overweight or obese as an adult is linked to 13 different types of cancer, including breast, bowel and kidney cancer, yet only 15% of people in the UK are aware of the link.

Alison Cox, Cancer Research UK’s director of prevention, said: “Being overweight is the UK’s biggest preventable cause of cancer after smoking, but most people don’t know about this substantial risk. If more people become aware of the link it may help spare not just millennials, but all generations from cancer.

“The government must play a part to help people make healthy food choices. We’re campaigning for a ban on junk food adverts before the 9pm watershed to protect young people from advertising tactics which all too often promote fattening foods.”

Cancer Research UK prevention expert Professor Linda Bauld added: “Research shows that our evolving environment has a vital role to play in the obesity crisis. Clever marketing tactics by the food industry and greater access to unhealthy food are all likely to have contributed to the rise in obesity rates.

“Extra body fat doesn’t just sit there; it sends messages around the body that can cause damage to cells. This damage can build up over time and increase the risk of cancer in the same way that damage from smoking causes cancer.

“While these estimates sound bleak, we can stop them becoming a reality. Millennials are known for following seemingly healthy food trends, but nothing beats a balanced diet. Eating plenty of fruit, vegetables and other fibre filled foods like whole grains, and cutting down on junk food is the best way to keep a healthy weight.”

To highlight the link between obesity and cancer, the charity handed out fake cigarette packets to shoppers in Aylesbury and asked what they thought the second biggest preventable cause of cancer was. Shoppers were then surprised to discover the packs contained chips, and the answer was obesity.

Lottie Goodchild, 24, of Aylesbury said: “It’s shocking, but not surprising. It’s important people know about the link because so many in this country, including the younger generation, are practically obese without even knowing it. We need families to support each other to keep a healthy balanced lifestyle, and we need the government to provide the best possible environment for this to happen.”

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