Only three per cent of people know that the risks of cancer can be reduced by maintaining a healthy weight, a new survey in Britain has found.
According to Cancer Research UK, being overweight or obese was one of the biggest cancer risks.
However, 97 per cent of the 4,000 people surveyed failed to mention keeping a healthy bodyweight as a way of reducing the chances of developing cancer.
"Encouraging people to change their behaviour is often difficult, but the first step is to build awareness that these changes are worth making," the Scotsman quoted Sara Hiom, director of health information at Cancer Research UK, as saying.
"We have estimated that more than 13,000 cases of cancer could be prevented each year if everyone maintained a healthy weight.
"While many people may associate weight with being healthy in general, this survey shows that most people don't link it directly with their risk of cancer, or don't know how much it can reduce their risk," she added.
The findings of the study suggest that two-thirds of the people surveyed mentioned giving up smoking as a way to reduce cancer risk.
The researchers said that 59 per cent said that food and diet were important, and 29 per cent understood that exercising more would help.
Hiom said: "Carrying extra weight means producing more chemicals in our bodies that can cause cancer to develop."
Tam Fry, chairman of the Child Growth Foundation and trustee of the National Obesity Forum, was surprised to find that the messages about the risk of cancer had not got across.
"The government is putting out all these messages about this and people are just not taking them on board. It has to be done in a much more inspirational way," he said.