Obesity contributes to 12,000 cancer cases

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You are more at risk of cancer if you are overweight

Scientists from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine have discovered that being overweight or obese can put you at greater risk of developing 10 of the most common forms of cancer.

The experts calculated that carrying extra weight could contribute to more than 12,000 cancer cases in the UK every year, and if obesity rates continue to increase, then an additional 3,700 cancer patients could be diagnosed annually. The study looked at five million people, making it the largest research to date to confirm this correlation.

The medical researchers found that each 13-16 kg of additional weight an average adult gained was linked firmly to an increased risk of developing six forms of cancer, with the risk factor defined by the tumour type. These are cancer of the uterus, gallbladder, kidney, cervix, thyroid and leukaemia.

Obesity risks

People who had a high body mass index were also more likely to develop cancer of the liver, colon, ovaries and post-menopausal breast cancer. Despite this researchers say although obesity was associated with the development of the most common cancers – which represent 90% of the cancers diagnosed in the UK, some showed no link at all. There is some evidence to suggest a higher BMI is associated with a lower chance of getting prostate cancer.

Dr Krishnan Bhaskaran, who led the research, told BBC News “There was a lot of variation in the effect of BMI on different cancers. For example, risk of cancer of the uterus increased substantially at higher body mass index, for other cancer we saw a more modest increase in risk or no effect at all. This variation tells us BMI must affect cancer risk through a number of different processes, depending on cancer type”

Tom Stansfeld, at Cancer Research UK, said “Although the relationship between cancer and obesity is complex, it is clear carrying excess weight increases your risk of developing cancer. Keeping a healthy weight reduces cancer risk and the best way to do this is through eating a healthy, balanced diet and exercising regularly.”