The increased risk of contracting cancer is still not enough encouragement to make overweight Britons lose weight, a new report shows for the first time. Around two-thirds of people in Britain realise that obesity has been linked to increased risk of cancer, but their main problem is still not having enough willpower to lose weight ,according to the study from Cancer Research UK.
Chief Executive of Cancer Research UK, Dr Harpal Kumar, says, "Unless we tackle the obesity epidemic in the UK we risk cancer cases soaring. We understand that it can be extremely hard for people to maintain a healthy weight but keeping those extra pounds at bay could ultimately save your life."
There has been a rapid rise in cancers of the womb, kidney and other cancers and obesity may be a key factor in the 19,000 cases each year the scientists believe are exacerbated by excessive weight, research suggests.
The survey indicates that more than four in 10 cancers can be prevented by various lifestyle changes.
The vast majority of those taking part in the survey (87%) said they wanted to be lighter, according to the Cancer UK survey.
Most overweight women (68%) thought too little willpower was the biggest problem when it came to losing weight, compared with six out of 10 men. The next biggest barrier was having too many worries followed by having tried previously, but failed.
Ready meals, mass advertising and fast food makes it more difficult for people to lose weight, says Prof Jane Wardle, from Cancer Research UK's Health Behaviour Research Centre, at University College London.
"But for both men and women being overweight is, after smoking, the most important risk factor for cancer.
What many people don't realise is that extra fat around the middle - their 'muffin top' - is surprisingly active, releasing hormones and other chemicals that can make cells in the body divide far more often than usual, which can increase the risk of cancer," she adds.
The Medical Research Council's head of diet and population health, Dr Susan Jebb, says although most people recognised that a bad diet could increase the risk of cancer developing, it was much more difficult for them to alter their lifestyle.
The challenge is to convert knowledge into a change in behaviour. For lasting weight change, people needed help from health experts, family and friends and to maintain healthy eating choices.
Most of those surveyed (almost 70%) say they would like to lose weight and take more exercise with around 60% aiming to consume more fruit and vegetables.
Far fewer (18%) were willing to cut alcohol levels and a similar amount said they could reduce red meat and processed meat.
Cancer Research UK's chief executive Dr Harpal Kumar, says healthier choices do not guarantee healthy life, but they do reduce the risk of developing cancer.