Obesity could overtake smoking as the chief avoidable cause of cancer-related deaths, the world's largest independent funder of cancer research said Friday.
With smoking rates in decline and obesity on the rise, it could surpass smoking as the biggest killer, the chief executive of Cancer Research UK said as it published new research.
"Obesity is potentially the new smoking, if we're not careful," said Harpal Kumar.
"My sense would be it'll be some time in next couple of decades that we'll see those two switch around."
Following a major new study of 2015 cancer data, the charity found that 37.7 percent of all cancers diagnosed in Britain each year could be prevented through lifestyle changes.
Smoking remains the biggest avoidable cause of cancer, a factor in 15.1 percent of preventable cases -- down from 19.4 percent in 2011 -- followed by obesity at 6.3 percent -- up from 5.5 percent.
Next came overexposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun and sunbeds and occupational exposure at 3.8 percent each, infections (3.6 percent), alcohol (3.3 percent) and eating too little fiber (3.3 percent).
The research published in the British Journal of Cancer shows that obesity causes 13 different types of cancer, including bowel, breast, womb and kidney.
"Leading a healthy life doesn't guarantee that a person won't get cancer, but it can stack the odds in your favor," Kumar said.
"These figures show that we each can take positive steps to help reduce our individual risk of the disease.
"Prevention is the most cost-effective way of beating cancer."
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