Causes of cancer

Obesity and Smoking Biggest Causes of Cancer

There are a multitude of things that can potentially cause cancer, many of which you can do little to prevent. However, two of the biggest causes of cancer are things that are, for the most part, within our control: smoking, and our weight. Cancer Research UK has found that a third of all cancer cases in the UK are actually avoidable. This equates to around 135,000 cancer patients.

By taking simple steps to take care of our bodies, we can begin to counteract these leading causes of cancer whilst reaping a plethora of other health benefits at the same time.

Causes of Cancer – Obesity

The research carried out by the leading UK cancer charity found that 6.3% of all cancer cases are caused by being overweight. This is a significant increase on the data from 2011, when 5.5% of cases were weight-related.

Weight-related health issues are becoming more and more common among both adults and children as the nation’s weight is increasing. In a bid to reduce cases of childhood obesity, the government has been working with Change4Life to promote sensible, healthier choices in snacking for children, and to ban junk food advertisements before the 9pm watershed.

Losing weight and making healthier diet choices can potentially reduce your risk of developing up to 10 different types of cancer which have been linked to obesity. These include uterine cancer, gallbladder, kidney, liver and colon cancers.

Although being overweight does not automatically mean you are going to get cancer, the benefits of maintaining a healthy weight through diet and exercise are numerous.

By losing weight, you can reduce your risk of developing the following health issues :

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Back pain

To find out whether you are at an increased risk of developing weight-related health issues, you can check your BMI (Body Mass Index) on the NHS website. You can also book an appointment for a free NHS Health check.

Causes of Cancer – Smoking

The good news is that cases of cancer caused by smoking are currently in decline, according to Cancer Research UK. Obviously, this doesn’t mean that smoking is becoming less harmful, but with more awareness of the risks, coupled with the increase in the use of tobacco free products such as e-cigarettes, the percentage of cancer cases caused by smoking is slowly decreasing. It is, however, still the leading cause of preventable cancer, currently contributing to around 15.1% of cases.

Smoking can be responsible for numerous forms of cancer besides that with which it is most associated: lung cancer. In addition to this, smoking can also contribute to your risk of developing mouth, kidney, stomach, throat and liver cancers, amongst others.

But smoking is also responsible for numerous other health conditions, and is the cause of around 80,000 deaths each year in England. For all the information you need on smoking, its effects on the body and advice and information on quitting, visit

Seeking Help and Advice

Both smoking and weight problems can be tackled with the right guidance and information. The Change4Life website is a good place to start if you need advice on healthy eating and keeping active. The NHS website also has information on how your GP can help you lose weight.

The NHS Livewell page is another excellent source of information on all aspects of healthy living and causes of cancer, including diet, alcohol intake, and smoking.

If you prefer to speak to someone in person, and are concerned about your weight, make an appointment with your GP. Both the doctor and your local pharmacist can provide tools and advice to help you quit smoking.