Large study finds (again) obesity links to many cancers

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A large new analysis of research confirms that obesity links to many forms of cancer, supporting AICR’s findings on the obesity-cancer link and highlighting clear evidence that obesity is a major cause of cancer.

The study was published today in the BMJ. It was funded in part by World Cancer Research Fund International, of which AICR is a member.

The study was a review of review studies. The authors looked at analyses that included how measures of excess body fat relate to both the risk of developing and dying from cancer.

Strong evidence, obesity and waist-to-hip
The researchers concluded there was strong evidence linking obesity to nine cancers.

They also found that women who have a higher waist-to-hip ratio have an increased risk of endometrial cancer. Weight gain and waist to hip circumference ratio were associated with a higher risk of post-menopausal breast cancer in women who have never used hormone replacement therapy and endometrial cancer, respectively.

Evidence from AICR shows that being overweight or obese increases the risk of developing 11 cancers, including endometrial, ovarian and post-menopausal breast. AICR/WCRF research focuses on the risk of developing cancer.

There are different methods scientists use for rating the quality of evidence, yet all point in the same direction, says Susan Higginbotham, RD, PhD, AICR Vice President of Research.

“The research is clear. After not smoking, being a healthy weight is the most important thing people can do to reduce their cancer risk,” said Higginbotham. AICR estimates that 132,800 US cancer cases could be prevented if everyone was a healthy weight.

1 of 2 Americans unaware of link
Many Americans remain unaware of the obesity-cancer link. An AICR survey released last month found that only half of Americans knew that obesity links to cancer development.

Source: 2017 AICR Cancer Risk Awareness Survey

With two-thirds of people in the US overweight or obese and rising obesity around the world, “it is incredibly important that tackling the obesity epidemic be made an urgent priority,” said Panagiota Mitrou, Director of Research Funding at World Cancer Research Fund.

In a linked editorial, Yikyung Park and Graham Colditz from Washington University School of Medicine note, “though some specifics remain to be worked out, the unavoidable conclusion from these data is that preventing excess adult weight gain can reduce the risk of cancer.”

Along with WCRF International, the study was supported by: the Imperial Healthcare NHS Trust NIHR Biomedical Research Centre; Genesis Research Trust; and the Sigrid Jusélius Fellowship.


    Author: Mya Nelson

    Mya R. Nelson is at American Institute for Cancer Research, where she writes about the research in the field.

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