OCT 05, 2017 5:36 AM PDT

CDC: 40 Percent of Cancers are Tied to Obesity

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

Image credit: Pixabay.com

The link between obesity and cancer just got even more real. A recent report finds that over 40 percent of cancer cases are tied to obesity.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that more than 39 percent of adults in the world were overweight in 2014 alone. That’s over 600 million adults. This number is not only expected to rise, but also include more children and adolescents.

Obesity is known to increase a person’s risk for cardiovascular problems, diabetes, and even cancer. In a study last year, researchers found the link between weight and cancer risks are more insidious than previously thought. The study cited 8 more cancers that are more likely to occur with increased weight gain. These include cancers of the gastric cardia, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, ovary, and thyroid, as well as multiple myeloma and meningioma.

Excess weight gain and obesity can be crudely measured by assessing a person’s body mass index (BMI), which takes into account weight and height. Overweight is defined as BMI of greater than 25.0 to 29.9, whereas obesity is defined as having a BMI of greater than 30.0.

To study the relationship between cancer and obesity, researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) analyzed cancer trends from 2005 and 2014. They analyzed a variety of cancer types, including those with known links to obesity (esophageal adenocarcinoma, postmenopausal breast cancer, colorectal cancer, endometrial cancer, gallbladder cancer, and gastric cardia cancer). Other cancers not typically tied to obesity were also included (cancer of the kidney, liver, and thyroid, ovaries, pancreas, blood, and brain).

In 2014 alone, they found 630,000 obesity-related cancers. This is about 40 percent of all cancer diagnosis in a year. When separated by gender, females who were obese were more likely to develop cancer (55 percent), as compared to males who were obese (24 percent). People who were older were also more susceptible to obesity-related cancers: 2 out of 3 of the obesity-related cancers occurred in people between 50 and 74 years old.

The team also found that obesity-related cancers rose by 7 percent between 2005 and 2015. Meanwhile, other cancers not linked to obesity fell by 13 percent in the same period. This suggests that the rise in cancer and obesity are not simply coincidental.

"The burden of overweight- and obesity-related cancer is high in the United States," the authors wrote.

The study underscores the health consequences of obesity. At the same time, it offers hope that we can take charge of our cancer risks by maintaining a healthy weight

“A majority of American adults weigh more than recommended - and being overweight or obese puts people at higher risk for a number of cancers - so these findings are a cause for concern [...] By getting to and keeping a healthy weight, we all can play a role in cancer prevention,” said Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, the study’s lead author.

Additional sources: MNT

About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
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