ACCORDING to new research people in Bolton and beyond are seriously lacking important health knowledge about the link between obesity and cancer.

Almost three out of four, 73 per cent, of people in the North West are unaware of the link, according to new figures released by Cancer Research UK.

A survey found that, as well as general ignorance about obesity and cancer, about three-quarters – 76 per cent – of those asked did not know obesity was linked specifically to ovarian cancer.

While there was better awareness of the link with bowel cancer, with 60 per cent of those surveyed in the North West knowing the association, two-thirds did not know there was a link with breast cancer and more than half did not know pancreatic cancer was linked to obesity.

Latest figures from Public Health England for Bolton found that 63.2 per cent of adults were obese or overweight, falling just below the national average, while 20.6 per cent of children were classified as obese, worse than the average for England.

While obesity is a local and national problem, Bolton Council confirmed it was something it was focused on reducing.

A council spokesman said: “Being overweight does increase the risk of certain cancers, along with many other diseases including cardiovascular disease (CVD), diabetes and high blood pressure which could result in a stroke. However, CVD and cancer are the two largest causes of deaths in the borough.

“There are numerous ways in which we can all help to prevent obesity, such as eating healthy food which has less fat, sugar and salt and being more physically active.

“In addition, we look closely at the number and location of new takeaways and encourage healthy eating and increased physical activity amongst all ages.”

Being overweight or obese is linked to 10 types of cancers, including breast, bowel, womb and oesophageal.

A recent UK Health Forum report estimated that if current trends of being overweight and obese continued, there would be a further 670,000 cancer cases over the next 20 years.

The report also found that the number of obese people would be higher among lower-income groups.

However, Cancer Research UK adds that it is the single biggest preventable cause of cancer after smoking and is linked to an estimated 18,100 cancer cases each year in the UK.

Among the work going into helping to lower obesity levels and to promote ways of maintaining healthy weight in Bolton is the Cancer Awareness Roadshow.

The roadshow is manned by Cancer Research UK Senior Cancer Awareness Nurse Jessica Turner, a former Turton High School pupil from Harwood.

It tours Lancashire and the North West helping to make people aware of ways they can reduce their risk of cancer and provides information about early diagnosis and the importance of going to the doctor with any health concerns.

Jessica and her team have a plate they use to illustrate portion sizes when talking to visitors about diet and the roadshow is stocked with leaflets on topics including being active and maintaining a healthy weight.

Visitors can also have a body mass index (BMI) test, where nurses measure their height and weight and work out their BMI – a guide used in healthcare to check if people’s weight is within a healthy range. A healthy BMI is between 18.5 and 25.

Visitors get a card with their result and, if their BMI is above the recommended rate, the roadshow nurses can provide information on changes people can make to maintain a healthy weight by being more active and eating more healthily.

Often this is about encouraging people to make small changes in their everyday lives so for example getting off the bus a few stops earlier, walking to work or school or taking the stairs rather than the lift or escalator.

Alison Barbuti, Cancer Research UK spokesman for the North West, said: “Around a quarter, 26 per cent, of all adults in the region are estimated to be obese, and this has a real impact on their risk of developing cancer.

“Eating a healthy balanced diet and becoming more active can help people to keep a healthy weight. And encouraging children and teenagers to do the same can help them keep to a healthy weight later on in life.”

Other projects in Bolton include the Healthy Weight Strategy, which highlights the aim to create a healthy environment which promotes and supports healthy weight.

Support for adults can also be found in Riteweight, a free NHS service aimed at people who would like to lose or maintain their weight and live a healthier lifestyle, with the next series of programmes starting on Monday.

Alison Cox, Cancer Research UK director of prevention, added: “Cancer isn’t at the forefront of people’s minds when talking about obesity and that’s really concerning.

“Few in the North West understand that excess weight increases the risk of several cancers, including some of the most common such as breast cancer.

“It’s the Government’s responsibility to inform the public of the link and also to take action to tackle the obesity epidemic, starting with the health of the nation’s children.”

To find out more about the charity’s campaign to restrict the marketing of junk food to children visit, or to find out more about the Riteweight programme contact 01204 462563 or email