The challenge of changing a lifestyle, despite cancer risks
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Increasing numbers of people in East Anglia are aware of the link between obesity and cancer, but many still find it difficult to make necessary lifestyle changes.
That’s the conclusion from experts after a new study into people’s perceptions about the risk of getting cancer.
The World Cancer Research fund has asked people every year what they think increases their risk of cancer and surveys from 2010 and 2020 have shown the change over the last decade.
In the East of England there has been a rise of nearly 20% in people who understand that drinking alcohol can increase your chances of getting cancer and 23% more that obesity can contribute.
However, Public Health England data showed that in 2016/17 more than 6 in 10 adults were overweight or obese in Suffolk and in 2017/18 one in three children aged 10-11 years were overweight or obese.
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Obesity related hospital admissions in England have increased by six-fold since 2010 and the rates of obesity and overweight adults in the country has not gone down.
Karen Hare, chief executive of Cancer Campaign in Suffolk, has warned that just because people are aware of certain risk factors it doesn’t mean they will necessarily make any changes.
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“It isn’t about just being obese,” she explained. “It is a whole lifestyle change you’re asking people to make.
“If you’re an overweight mum with several children and a full time job you might really struggle to change everything in your life to work towards losing weight.
“There is also a certain element of people choosing their risk, everyone has some things they aren’t willing to give up and they know it could cause them to get ill but they still refuse to give it up.”
One in two of us will get cancer in our lifetimes and yet there are more people surviving cancer than ever before – but some people still staying away from hospital despite knowing their chances of survival decrease with time.
Ms Hare said that many people are scared by their own health and that many people are aware that their obesity makes them more likely to get cancer, but this isn’t always enough to get them to change.
“Ipswich is an area with a lot of deprivation,” she added.
“People with a lower income are disproportionately affected by cancer as there are higher rates of alcohol use, smoking and eating more processed food.
“The way we can change people’s lifestyles and body image is to keeping banging on the drum about awareness.”
Research by the World Cancer Research Fund has found obesity and being overweight can increase the risk of these cancers:
• Mouth, pharynx and larynx cancers
• Oesophageal cancer
• Stomach cancer
• Pancreatic cancer
• Gallbladder cancer
• Liver cancer
• Bowel cancer
• Breast cancer
• Ovarian cancer
• Womb cancer
• Prostate cancer
• Kidney cancer
For help with life before, during or after cancer, the Cancer Campaign in Suffolk website offers a number of resources including advice for care during the Covid-19 pandemic.