image: allthingsbeautiful.com
image: allthingsbeautiful.com

Cancer cases are now rising at such a rate that the disease poses a threat to humanity comparable to climate change.

So what?… you don’t smoke, live under power lines or work at a nuclear power plant.

gut

That may be true, but you haven’t seen your toes in years, and according to a report co-published by the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research, a third of cancers are caused by diet and lack of exercise.

And if that wasn’t bad enough, according to the new WCRF/AICR report:

  • About seven million people die from cancer worldwide each year.
  • That number is expected to rise to more than 10 million by 2020.
  • The estimated number of new cases annually is set to increase from 10 million now to 16 million by 2020.
  • Overall the toll is predicted to double in the next 40 years.

Because of these facts, the WCRF/AICR has identified global obesity as it’s primary target in their war against cancer.

According to British researcher Sir Michael Marmot,

“When we look at what’s happened to obesity levels in this country(England), it’s growing at an alarming rate. Anybody looking at the evidence would say there must be social and economic causes of that. It can’t be that 20 million people individually said, ‘I’ll think I’ll get fat.'”

Marmot acknowledged the extra challenge posed by the recession, which has led to booming sales for fast food chains. “It is going to be difficult, but in a way it’s even more urgent to ask what needs to be done, because if you do nothing and the recession forces people into cheaper, unhealthier options, that only highlights that the unhealthy options tend to be the cheaper ones.”

fat_kid

WCRF/AICR is calling on individuals to take responsibility for themselves and their children, while stressing the need for action from governments, multinational corporations, civil society, industry, workplaces, schools, the media and health professionals. Marmot cited the provision of cycle lanes, gyms and swimming pools as measures encouraging people to exercise. He welcomed the congestion charge in London as having prompted more people to cycle to work.

image from treehugger.com
image from treehugger.com

Marmot, who is also chair of the World Health Organisation’s Commission on Social Determinants of Health, is braced for the charge that he is advocating a nanny state approach.

He cited two examples of communicable diseases, smallpox and water-borne diseases, which collective social action have largely eliminated. “We didn’t say at the time, ‘Oh, this is the nanny state providing clean water for people – people should decide for themselves whether they want to drink water with cholera in.’ Nobody would say that today. Diet is a bit more complicated but we want the availability of a nutritious supply of food.”

Obesity has social and economic causes, he added, and therefore social and economic solutions. “We’re worried in this country, but it’s also Egypt, Mexico, Brazil, middle-income countries. In Egypt two thirds of women are overweight or obese. Mexico has frightening levels of obesity in middle-class kids … they’ve gone from fajitas to fast food, with nothing in between.”

Hmmmm…fast food causing obesity.

What to do, what to do???

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