Weighty Matters

10 January 2022

Does being obese or overweight increase the risk of bowel cancers?  The answer is most definitely YES!

A meta-analysis (a study of other studies) in 2015 by a national cancer charity indicated that men who have a 5-point increase in their body-mass index (BMI) outside of the recommended range (18 to 25) have up to a 30% higher risk of colon cancer. For women with the same increase in BMI, it’s a 12% greater risk.

The study also showed that being overweight or obese carries higher risks of rectal cancer in men, and that obese people of either sex who have colon polyps have a much higher risk of adenomas (some 47% higher), which are benign polyps that can turn cancerous.

With the new year approaching when people are keen to start shedding excess pounds, we asked market research firm OnePoll to look the issue of healthy eating and weight on our behalf.

Two thousand adult members of the public were polled and our headline finding was that nearly four in ten (39%) of adults are trying to lose weight at the moment.

This is a reasonably high percentage but it almost certainly needs to be higher, because government research published in March 2017 found nearly two thirds of adult men and women were either overweight or obese.

Let’s look at our poll results in a little more detail. We found that of those seeking to lose weight, 41% plan to do this by controlling more carefully what they eat and drink, while almost a quarter (23%) aim to lose weight through more exercise or exercising more vigorously.

The big question is what does the public think about their risk of bowel cancer in relation to their weight and diets.

The answer was that almost two thirds (64%) of the people questioned believe their weight could have either a major or minor effect on the risk developing bowel cancer, while approaching 7 in 10 (68%) felt what they ate was also a risk factor for the disease.

We were pleased with this finding. This shows that the public has a good degree of understanding of the risks of being overweight and eating a poor diet, but obviously there’s still plenty of room for improvement and it’s vital we play our part increasing public awareness about the risks associated with obesity because it is so prevalent. Many people fail to stick with short-lived weight loss plans and it’s important we continue to provide the right motivation for them to keep at it.

Another pleasing finding gleaned from our research is that nearly half (47%) of the people we surveyed said they would take immediate action if advised to lose weight by a medical professional.

However, there’s a gap when it comes to knowing what their ideal weight should be. Our poll found that 48% of the adults surveyed only a had a rough idea, while around a quarter (23%) did not know what their weight should be.

Perhaps worryingly for public health experts, 29% said they did not check on packaged food items for calories, fat, and sugar before they bought them, and 47% said they only sometimes checked food labels.

While there’s clearly more work to be done educating the public about healthy eating and remaining a healthy weight, we are by no means starting from scratch and it’s very pleasing that so many people are already taking appropriate action as we begin the year.