New state rankings for adult obesity leveling but still high, placing many at increased cancer risk

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A new report out today shows US adult obesity rates leveling off, yet still at least one of every four adults has obesity in almost every state. That’s a big deal for cancer risk because AICR research links obesity to eleven cancers. Aside from not smoking, getting to and staying a healthy weight is the single biggest change people can do to lower their cancer risk.

The new findings are from the 14th annual State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier America and the positive news is that obesity rates appear to be stabilizing overall. That’s a marked change from the steady growth throughout the 2000s. Last year was the first time the annual report found declines in adult obesity rates and, overtime, growth has started to slow.

Click on image to see your state’s obesity rate over time.

The report also reviewed other studies that found childhood rates have stabilized over the past decade, and decreased among low-income preschoolers between 2011 and 2014.  The report is by Trust for America’s Health  and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

For adults:

  • West Virginia ranked as having the highest rate with almost 38% of adults having obesity. Colorado had the lowest adult obesity rate at 22.3 percent.
  • Nine of the 11 states with the highest obesity rates are in the South and 23 of the 25 states with the highest rates of obesity are in the South and Midwest.
  • Adult obesity rates have striking racial and ethnic inequities – with rates above 40 percent for Blacks in 15 states and rates at or above 35 percent among Latinos in nine states, compared with rates above 35 percent among Whites in one state.

Along with state-by-state rankings, the report findings website also tracks the status of each state’s policy efforts aimed at preventing obesity.

Research shows that too much body fat can increase cancer risk in several ways, such as leading to chronic inflammation and unhealthy hormone levels. AICR estimates that excess body fat is a cause of about 132,000 US cancer cases every year.

Here’s the cancers that overweight and obesity link to:


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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