Excess Weight and Cancer Risks
Limiting weight gain could help to reduce risk of these cancers
Researchers have identi ed eight additional types of cancer linked to excess weight and obesity. Limiting weight gain over time could help to reduce the risk of these cancers, the data suggest.
There’s yet another reason to maintain a healthy weight as we age. An international team of researchers has identi ed eight additional types of cancer linked to excess weight and obesity: stomach, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, ovary, meningioma (a type of brain tumor), thyroid cancer and the blood cancer multiple myeloma.
Limiting weight gain over the decades could help to reduce the risk of these cancers, the data suggest.
The findings, published Aug. 25 in The New England Journal of Medicine, are based on a review of more than 1,000 studies of excess
weight and cancer risk analyzed by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Cancer on Research (IARC), based in France.
“The burden of cancer due to being overweight or obese is more extensive than what has been assumed,” said cancer prevention expert Graham Colditz, MD, DrPH, at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, who chaired the IARC Working Group. “Many of the newly identi ed cancers linked to excess weight haven’t been on people’s radar screens as having a weight component.”
The ndings could have a signi cant bearing on the global population. Worldwide, an estimated 640 million adults and 110 million children are obese, including one-third of adults and children in the United States.
In 2002, the same group of cancer researchers found su cient evidence linking excess weight to higher risks of cancers of the colon, esophagus, kidney, breast and uterus.
“Lifestyle factors such as eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight and exercising, in addition to not smoking, can have a signi cant impact on reducing cancer risk,” said Colditz, who also is associate director of prevention and control at Siteman Cancer Center at Washington University and Barnes-Jewish Hospital. “Public health e orts to combat cancer should focus on these things that people have some control over.”
For most of the cancers on the newly expanded list, the researchers noted a positive dose-response relationship: the higher the body-mass index, or BMI, the greater the cancer risk.
The cancer risks associated with excess weight were similar for men and women and, when data were available, were consistent across geographic regions – North America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.
There are many reasons why being overweight or obese can increase cancer risk, the researchers noted. Excess fat leads to an overproduction of estrogen, testosterone and insulin, and promotes in ammation, all
of which can drive cancer growth.
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