BRITONS risk dying prematurely from cancer because they are unaware that being overweight*(1) increases their chance of developing the disease.
An NOP survey*(2), released today by Cancer Research UK's Race for Life, reveals that only three per cent of those surveyed know that people who are overweight are more likely to develop cancer than people of normal weight, while 70 per cent are aware of the link with heart disease.
Professor Jane Wardle, Director of Cancer Research UK's Health Behaviour Unit, says: "Excess body fat is not harmless 'extra padding', but active tissue producing hormones that can increase the risk of cancer.
"In order to lose weight and then maintain a healthy body weight you need to eat less and be more active. Even small weight losses have been shown to have a beneficial effect on health."
The survey has been released to coincide with the launch of Cancer Research UK's Race for Life, sponsored nationally by Tesco. An expected 325,000 women will run, jog or walk 5km at 150 venues across the UK from 5 May until 25 July, raising £20 million for research into the prevention, treatment and cure of cancer.
Dr Lesley Walker, Director of Cancer Information at Cancer Research UK, says: "The results of this survey are extremely worrying especially as being overweight is the major preventable risk factor for cancer in non-smokers.
"Post-menopausal women who are overweight have a greater risk of developing breast cancer and there is also evidence of a link between being seriously overweight and cancer of the womb, kidney, bowel and oesophagus."
Former Olympic athlete and Race for Life supporter, Sally Gunnell, says: "Cancer Research UK's Race for Life is a perfect starting point for those who are new to exercise or who have weight to lose. It is an event for women of all ages and levels of fitness, with the emphasis on taking part."
*(1) Your Body Mass Index or BMI is a measure of your weight in relation to your height.
*(2)The survey was conducted by NOP by telephone amongst 1,000 adults aged 15 years+ in Great Britain from 19 – 21 March 2004.