Adults in the UK are eating at least 79 million ready meals and 22 million fast food and takeaway meals every week, according to new figures.
The charity has called on the food industry to “step up” and commit to cutting the amount of fat and sugar in food for the sake of the nation’s health.
The report, based on a YouGov survey, found that young adults aged 18-24 are more likely to rely on convenience meals, and are seven times more likely to indulge in fast food and takeaways at least once a week compared to the over 65s.
Additionally, men were more likely than women to eat convenience food rather than make meals at home.
It’s estimated that adults in England consume an extra 200-300 calories every day, which is around the same calorie content as two packets of salted crisps.
Regularly consuming fast food and ready meals, which tend to have a high calorie content and higher levels of fat and sugar, increases the risk of weight gain and obesity.
Obesity is the single biggest preventable cause of cancer in the UK after smoking and is linked to thirteen types of cancer including bowel, breast, and pancreatic.
Alison Cox, Cancer Research UK’s director of cancer prevention, said: “These figures show that ‘grab and go’ foods and a growing appetite for takeaways and ready meals are helping to propel us towards an epidemic of larger waistlines and increased cancer risk.
“The whole food industry needs to step up and commit to working with government to cut the amount of fat and sugar in our food. This would make it that bit easier for all of us to become healthier and reduce our cancer risk.”
Sarah Toule, head of health information at World Cancer Research Fund, said: “These new findings show, yet again, that the easy choice is too often the unhealthy one.
”This is particularly worrying as these unhealthy choices are fuelling the obesity epidemic in this country. If everyone was a healthy weight, around 25,000 cancer cases could be prevented every year in the UK.
”The food and drink industry has an important role to play in reducing the amount of unhealthy ingredients in their products.”