GPs' crucial role in exposing obesity link to cancer

GP advice can help people make the link between obesity and cancer risk, says Cancer Research UK.

By Joanne Ellul

This was in response to a survey conducted by the charity that found 97% of people do not list being overweight as a cancer risk. The survey of nearly 4,000 people revealed that, in comparison, two-thirds of people surveyed mentioned quitting smoking as a way to reduce cancer risk.

Sara Hiom, director of health information at Cancer Research UK, praised the crucial role GPs have played in building awareness about  the harmful effects of smoking and in helping people to quit. She added they could also make a real difference by raising awareness of the link between weight and cancer by explaining how those extra pounds affect hormone levels that can increase their risk of the disease.

'GPs shouldn't underestimate how valuable the advice they give their patients can be - a few well chosen words can make all the difference,' she said.

Ms Hiom added: ‘It may be hard for people to make the link between obesity and an increased risk of cancer because we generally associate having the disease with being underweight.'

However, in the survey, over half of people said that food and diet was important and nearly a third understood that exercising more would help.

Dr David Haslam, a GP and member of the National Obesity Forum, explained that people do not make the obvious link between obesity and cancer because 'it's counter intuitive. There's no obvious link between obesity and cancer. You have to know your physiology to make that link.'

He emphasised that GPs should raise awareness of the risks of obesity. He warned against scaremongering in terms of cancer risk to obese patients, but said that routine testing should be carried on those at risk.

After smoking, being overweight or obese is one of the biggest cancer risks. Cancer Research UK estimated that more than 13,000 cases of cancer each year could be prevented if everyone maintained a healthy weight.


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