Cancer rates will rise six times faster for women than for men over the next 20 years, Cancer Research UK has warned.
A study from the charity predicts that a rise of 0.5 per cent in cases for men and three per cent for women by 2035, meaning around 4.5 million women and 4.8 million men will be diagnosed with the disease over the next two decades.
At the heart of the rise are the surging obesity rates, which are now the second-biggest cancer risk for women. Around 18,000 people in the UK develop cancer because they are overweight, a figure predicted to soar to 56,000 in 2035.
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Professor Peter Johnson, chief clinician at Cancer Research UK, said: "After smoking, being overweight is the single biggest preventable cause of cancer and has been linked to 13 different types. Ovarian, womb and post-menopausal breast cancer all happen more often to people carrying too much weight.
"Taking regular exercise and avoiding too many treats is a good way to reduce your risk. We all know it's not always easy to maintain a healthy weight, but even small steps can help."
Almost two-thirds of adults are considered to be overweight or obese in the UK. Although more men are overweight, the "obesity timebomb hits women harder" because most cancers linked to weight tend to be more common in females, such as breast, womb and ovarian cancer, says the Daily Telegraph.
Added to that, female cancer rates are also being affected by a rise in alcohol consumption and an increase in women taking up smoking later on in life.
Cases of breast cancer are expected to rise from 54,800 in 2014 to more than 71,000 in 2035, while ovarian cancer cases could jump from almost 7,400 to 10,500.
Breast, prostate, lung and bowel cancer are the most common cancers, accounting for more than half of new cases of the disease each year in the UK.
Worldwide, 7.4 million men and 6.7 million women are diagnosed with cancer each year.
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