40% Cancer Cases Linked to Excess Weight

According to a new report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, being overweight or obese can increase a person’s risk of cancer by at least 13%. Specifically, these people are more at risk for 13 types of cancer including cancer of the brain, esophagus, thyroid, gallbladder, stomach, pancreas, kidney, uterus and colon. The report estimates that this makes up approximately 40% of all cancers diagnosed in the U.S.

Study researchers found that in 2014, over 634,000 people in the U.S. had a type of cancer that was associated with their weight or obesity levels. This accounted for over 55% of cancers diagnosed among women and 24% of cancers diagnosed among men.

The negative relationship between a higher BMI and health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease is already well-established. However, this report now confirms that the same association exists for certain cancers. Even if this is not widely known so far, the International Agency for Research on Cancer has also stated that there is sufficient evidence to link excess body fat to cancer.

The question that arises now is why body weight is linked to an increase in the risk of cancer. The report claims that excess weight increases inflammation in the body which may be a factor. In addition, excess weight increases levels of certain hormones such as sex hormones and insulin as well as an insulin-like growth factor. These factors could also be linked to an increase in the risk of cancer.

The report also shows that weight-related cancers are being observed more among younger people. Between 2005 and 2014, there was a 1.4% increase in weight-related cancer among people in the age group of 20 to 49 years as compared to only a 0.4% increase among the 50-64 age groups. Almost 50% of the cancers diagnosed among the younger group were associated with excess weight.

Overweight and obese people were found to be twice as likely to develop cancers of the esophagus, stomach, liver, and kidney as compared to people of normal weight and 30% more likely to develop colorectal cancer. Overweight or obese women were two to four times more likely to develop endometrial cancer as compared to women with normal weight.

“The burden of overweight- and obesity-related cancers might be reduced through efforts to prevent and control” excess weight gain and obesity, the study authors wrote. “Comprehensive cancer-control strategies, including the use of evidence-based interventions to promote healthy weight, could help decrease the incidence of these cancers in the United States.”