Obesity is one of the main causes of cancer in the UK, second only to smoking cigarettes. But is lockdown about to change that?
New research into the causes of cancer suggests that obesity is second only to cigarette smoking. Since the pandemic began and the UK went into lockdown, regular exercise has become more difficult for many of us. Gyms are closed, exercise classes have been cancelled, and British weather means outdoor exercise isn’t always an option. Meanwhile, many people in the UK are choosing to give up smoking. In 2018, Public Health England reported that more than 400,000 smokers had quit successfully in just one year.
Diet and Exercise During Lockdown
As a result of the coronavirus pandemic and extended UK lockdowns, lots of people have reported gaining weight. It isn’t hard to see why – people who used to walk to work, go to the gym, or play sports are currently stuck at home with limited ways to exercise. Meanwhile, many Brits say they’ve been eating more junk food in the last year.
Obesity and Cancer
While cigarette smoking remains top of the list, obesity is now the second biggest cause of cancer in the UK. What’s more, according to scientists, it is likely to overtake smoking and become the main cause of cancer by 2040.
Being overweight makes the body more likely to develop tumours, according to research. In fact, more than a dozen different cancers have been linked to obesity. This is because fat cells can send out signals within the body, affecting other tissues and organs. In some cases, these signals tell the cells to divide. When cells divide too quickly, this can form a tumour.
Can Exercise Prevent Cancer?
Cancer Research UK recently studied the effects of exercise on cancer rates. They found that lifestyle changes such as increasing physical activity could prevent more than 135,000 cases of cancer every year in the UK. Another study at Newcastle University found that mice who exercised for 30 minutes three times a week had less liver inflammation than those who led sedentary lives. This inflammation can lead to tumours.
How Much Should I Be Exercising?
The NHS recommends that all adults should do some kind of exercise every day. Any activity is better than none. We should all aim to do 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise throughout the week (or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise). Older people should also do activities to improve their strength, balance, and flexibility at least twice per week.
For more information about exercise, see the NHS website.
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Note: we updated this blog on 17/05/21 to include the latest information. Originally published 16/02/21.