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A leading charity has warned that obesity could overtake smoking as the leading cause of cancer in women in the UK within 25 years.

A report by Cancer Research UK said that if current trends continue there will be just 2,000 fewer female cancer cases as a result of being overweight and obese than smoking by 2035 compared with 16,200 fewer cancer cases attributed to obesity in men. Overweight and obesity, it warned, will be the biggest cause of cancer in women by 2043.

The study was conducted using population attributable fractions which combined risk factor prevalence, cancer incidence and relative risk of cancer in risk-factor-exposed versus unexposed people.

“The number of overweight and obesity-attributable cancer cases is projected to draw ever-nearer to the number of smoking-attributable cancer cases. By 2035 overweight and obesity could contribute only around 2,000 fewer cancer cases than smoking, in UK females,” the report said.

“In UK males, projections indicate around 16,200 cases could separate the two risk factors in 2035. Based on these calculations, we estimate that overweight and obesity could cause more cancer cases than smoking in UK females by 2043.”

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