Obesity now causes more cases of some cancers than smoking, according to shocking new figures, with the number of obese people in the UK outnumbering those who smoke by two to one. 

Cancer Research UK is urging the Government to tackle obesity and has launched a campaign to increase awareness of the health dangers of being overweight. Latest research from the charity shows that being obese leads to a greater risk than smoking of being diagnosed with four types of cancer - bowel, kidney, liver and ovarian - and is having an impact on a ‘national health crisis’.

According to Cancer Research UK, almost a third of UK adults - nearly 15m people - are obese. While smoking remains the nation’s biggest preventable cause of cancer and carries a much higher risk of the disease than obesity, being obese causes around 1,900 more cases of bowel cancer than smoking in the UK each year, 1,400 more cases of kidney cancer, 460 more cases of ovarian cancer and 180 more cases of liver cancer.

Cancer Research UK chief executive Michelle Mitchell said: “As smoking rates fall and obesity rates rise, we can clearly see the impact on a national health crisis when the Government puts policies in place – and when it puts its head in the sand. Our children could be a smoke-free generation, but we’ve hit a devastating record high for childhood obesity and now we need urgent government intervention to end the epidemic. They still have a chance to save lives. 

"Scientists have so far identified that obesity causes 13 types of cancer but the mechanisms aren’t fully understood. So further research is needed to find out more about the ways extra body fat can lead to cancer."

Cancer Research UK has launched a nationwide campaign highlighting the link between obesity and cancer and comparing smoking and obesity, to show how policy change can help people form healthier habits. 

The charity has also called on the Government to act on its ambition to halve childhood obesity rates by 2030 and introduce a 9 pm watershed for junk food adverts on TV and online, alongside other measures such as restricting promotional offers on unhealthy food and drinks.

Cancer Research UK prevention expert Professor Linda Bauld added: "There isn’t a silver bullet to reduce obesity, but the huge fall in smoking over the years – partly thanks to advertising and environmental bans – shows that Government-led change works. It was needed to tackle sky-high smoking rates, and now the same is true for obesity.

"The world we live in doesn’t make it easy to be healthy and we need Government action to fix that, but people can also make changes themselves; small things like swapping junk food for healthier options and keeping active can all add up to help reduce cancer risk."

Cancer Research UK’s campaign follows recent calls for sugar to be treated like tobacco by leading think tank the Institute for Public Policy Research. If you’re trying to lose weight, read the inspiring story of our ‘biggest loser’ colleagues, who collectively lost a whopping 12 stone 10lbs - the equivalent of a whole person - in just three months! And did you know that cheaper gym membership is one of the hidden benefits of health insurance? Read our article to find out more!