A newly published research paper by University of Queensland researchers, which looked specifically at cancers where being overweight or obese is a proven risk factor, has found that “Of these cancers, — for men, 23 per cent of kidney cancers, 19 per cent of colon cancer and 13 per cent of pancreatic cancer could be attributed to excess weight.”
“Growing obesity levels are increasing the burden of cancers throughout the world”, say University of Queensland researchers.
The researchers used High “body-mass index” (BMI) defined as 25 kg/m2 or greater as the measure of being overweight; obesity is defined as having a BMI greater than 30. BMI is a measure of relative weight based on an individual’s weight and height.
Summary of Findings
University of Queensland researchers estimate that a quarter of all obesity-related cancers in 2012 could be attributed to the rising average body mass index since 1982. “We found that about 3.6 per cent of the cancers worldwide – or nearly half a million new cancer cases a year – were caused by excess body weight,” Dr Nirmala Pandeya joint lead author on the research paper said.
“In Australia, the percentage is similar, with 3.4 per cent of all cancers in men (2350 new cases) and 7.4 per cent (3782 new cases) in women diagnosed in 2012 attributable to overweight and obesity.”
Researchers looked specifically at cancers where being overweight or obese is a proven risk factor. Dr Pandeya stated that, “Of these cancers, we found that, for men, 23 per cent of kidney cancers, 19 per cent of colon cancer and 13 per cent of pancreatic cancer could be attributed to excess weight.”
She added that “The research results indicated that “the impact was more pronounced in women,” and that “According to the latest figure, about 63 per cent of Australians are either overweight or obese.”
Using estimates of the number of overweight and obese people in the population and the proven increased risk of cancer, researchers determined how many new cancer cases could be attributed to the world’s increasing high body mass index levels, which have doubled since 1980.
The global study found that the burden of cancer was strongest in the developed world, with the US leading the way. “Other important risk factors for cancer, such as smoking, are declining, but we see the proportion of overweight and obese men and women still rising in most countries,” she said. “If this trend continues we are likely to see an increasing number of people diagnosed with cancers that could have been avoided by maintaining a healthy weight.”
The report concludes that “These findings emphasise the need for a global effort to abate the increasing numbers of people with high BMI. 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.”
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