Obesity cancer's new best friend

Obesity cancer's new best friend

Obesity has become the biggest preventable risk factor for cancer in Australia after smoking, experts have warned.

A World Health Organisation report has confirmed the huge global toll from cancer, which is now the world's biggest killer, responsible for 8.2 million deaths a year and rising.

The World Cancer Report predicts that the number of cases will increase 75 per cent over the next two decades, topping 20 million new cases a year by 2025.

While Australia is faring better than many countries for cancer deaths, it has one of the highest cancer incidence rates, third in the world behind Denmark and France, mostly because of its ageing population.

Cancer Council Australia spokesman Terry Slevin said the report showed a big international divide, with Australia rating among the best in the world for cancer screening and vaccination programs. "In developed countries, we're living longer and therefore more likely to be diagnosed with a degenerative disease such as cancer," he said.

"The other reason is that we're looking for cancer more systemically, so the more you look for it, the more you find. So some of the increase is real, some is because of the ageing population and some is due to more screening."

But Mr Slevin said the downside of Australia's Western lifestyle was high rates of overweight and obesity. "For non-smokers, the single most important modifiable risk factor for cancer is body weight, a healthy diet and physical activity," he said.

Mr Slevin said the global cost of cancer - $US1.16 trillion a year in 2010, equating to 2 per cent of the world's GDP - was extraordinary, particularly as up to $200 billion a year could be saved if more was done to prevent cancer.

The Cancer Council said the increase in cancer rates had given rise to more misinformation about the risks, prompting it to launch a website and a mobile app where people could check the facts from myths. Details can be found at