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Obesity a global cause of cancer

Wednesday November 26th, 2014

Excess weight is linked to half a million cancers every year worldwide, according to a major study published today.

Overweight and obesity cause about 3.6% of all cancers, say researchers led by Dr Melina Arnold from the International Agency for Research on Cancer in Lyon, France.

In today's Lancet Oncology they point out that "the global prevalence of excess bodyweight in adults increased by 27.5% between 1980 and 2013".

A high body mass index (BMI) has been linked to the risk of oesophageal adenocarcinoma and colon, rectal, kidney, pancreas, gallbladder, postmenopausal breast, ovarian, and endometrial cancers.

The team set out to estimate the global burden of cancer attributable to a high BMI, looking at figures from 2012. They took details from GLOBOCAN2012, a global health project, to find links between BMI in 1982 and in 2002, and cancer rates ten years later in 2012. In total, 481,000 of all new cancer cases in adults were thought to be due to obesity.

"A quarter of the cancer cases related to high body mass index in 2012 could be attributed to the increase in body mass index since 1982," they state, adding: "The burden of BMI-attributable cases was higher in countries with higher human development indices."

Almost two-thirds (64%) of the BMI-related cancers occurred in North America and Europe.

"These findings emphasise the need for a global effort to abate the increasing numbers of people with high body mass index," they write. "Assuming that the association between high BMI and cancer is causal, the continuation of current patterns of population weight gain will lead to continuing increases in the future burden of cancer."

Arnold, M. et al. Global burden of cancer attributable to high body-mass index in 2012: a population-based study. The Lancet Oncology 26 November 2014 doi:10.1016/S1470-2045(14)71123-4 [abstract]

Tags: Cancer | Diet & Food | Europe | Fitness | North America | World Health

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