New AICR/WCRF Report: Obesity Increases Ovarian Cancer Risk


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A new report we’ve released today suggests that staying a healthy weight may offer women a relatively modest — but significant — protection against ovarian cancer, one of the most deadly cancers for women.

The findings of AICR/WCRF’s latest Continuous Update Project report, Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity and the Prevention of Ovarian Cancer, means that ovarian cancer now joins the list of cancers linked to obesity. Research now shows that excess body fat links to increased risk of  eight cancers, including postmenopausal breast, colorectal and pancreatic.

For the report, scientists analyzed all relevant studies that investigated ovarian cancer’s link to diet, physical activity and weight. There were 25 studies related to weight, including four million women.

The report concluded that every five increments of BMI increased women’s risk 6 percent. That risk started on the high end of overweight, towards the obesity category, which starts at a BMI of 30. That means for two women both 5 feet 5 inches tall with all other factors equal, the woman weighing 200 pounds would be at 6 percent higher risk of developing ovarian cancer than her counterpart at 170 pounds.

That risk is relatively small compared to how obesity increases risk for colorectal or endometrial cancers, for example. And factors such as each woman’s age or family history places women at a different risk to start.

But obesity is a risk factor that women can change. And after not smoking, being a healthy weight is one of the most important ways that both women and men can prevent cancer, along with many other chronic diseases.

For symptoms and other risk factors for ovarian cancer, you can read more on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention site. BMI is one measure of body fat (it’s not perfect, as Alice wrote about here); visit our BMI page to calculate yours.