obesity and cancer
August 14, 2014

Higher BMI Found To Increase Risk Of Several Types Of Cancer

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

Obesity increases a person’s risk of developing 10 of the most common forms of cancer, and is believed to cause an estimated 12,000 additional cases of the disease each year, experts from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and the Farr Institute of Health Informatics claim in a new study.

The research, which was published online Thursday in the UK medical journal The Lancet, looked at the medical data of five million UK adults and discovered a link between higher body mass index (BMI) and increased risk of cancers affecting the uterus, gallbladder, kidney, liver, cervix, thyroid, and colon, as well as leukemia, ovarian cancer and breast cancer.

Weight-related increases in cancer risk varied by tumor type, with uterine cancer having the highest (a 62 percent increased risk) followed by gallbladder (31 percent) and kidney (25 percent), according to BBC News. They found that every 28 to 35 pounds (13 to 16 kg) of extra weight was clearly linked with an increase in the risk of these three diseases, as well as cervical cancer, thyroid cancer and leukemia.

“If we could magically remove excess weight from the population, we would have 12,000 fewer cancers,” lead investigator Dr. Krishnan Bhaskaran, National Institute for Health Research Postdoctoral Fellow at the LSHTM, told The Guardian on Wednesday, adding that even the study authors were surprised by how strong the relationship was.

“The number of people who are overweight or obese is rapidly increasing both in the UK and worldwide. It is well recognized that this is likely to cause more diabetes and cardiovascular disease,” Dr. Bhaskaran added in a statement. “Our results show that if these trends continue, we can also expect to see substantially more cancers as a result.”

The LSHTM and Farr Institute researchers reported that obesity increased the risk of liver cancer by 19 percent, cervical cancer and colon cancer by 10 percent each, thyroid and ovarian cancers by 9 percent each, leukemia by 9 percent and breast cancer by 5 percent, though they noted that those effects varied by underlying BMI and other individual-level risk factors such as sex and menopausal status.

While they found some evidence that higher-weight people faced a slightly reduced risk of prostate cancer and premenopausal breast cancer, the results of the National Institute for Health Research, Wellcome Trust, and Medical Research Council-funded study suggest that obesity could account for 41 percent of all uterine cancer cases, and at least one-tenth of all gallbladder, kidney, liver, and colon cancers in the UK.

If the obesity epidemic continues to spread, it could be responsible for as many as 3,500 new cancers every year, the researchers noted. The study’s findings have prompted some experts to call on regulators to do more to encourage people to eat healthier while punishing companies that sell high-calorie foods, noted Sarah Knapton, Science Correspondent for The Telegraph.

“We have to ditch this love-in with the food industry and start penalizing those who continue to make unhealthy food.” Tam Fry of the National Obesity Forum told Knapton. “We are now starting to reap the rewards of decades of inaction and unwillingness to do anything about obesity and its consequences.”

“The public is still not aware of the harm that being overweight or obese does and we have become too worried with making fat people thin rather than preventing people getting that way in the first place,” she added. “From the earliest age, children should be educated at school about the dangers, otherwise we are just mopping up the water without turning off the tap.”

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