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Strong evidence to support association between obesity and certain types of cancer

A large review lead by researchers at Imperial College London has discovered ‘strong evidence’ to support the association between obesity and some major types of cancer, mainly those related to digestive organs and hormone-related malignancies. 

A large review lead by researchers at Imperial College London has discovered ‘strong evidence’ to support the association between obesity and some major types of cancer, mainly those related to digestive organs and hormone-related malignancies. 


For every 5kg increase in BMI, the study found the risk of developing cancer
ranged from 9-56%. Picture: iStock

After a literature search, the researchers identified 204 studies from 49 publications that analysed obesity measurements, such as body mass index (BMI), weight gain and waist circumference, and 36 cancers and their subtypes. 

Strong associations were found in studies that examined BMI with risk of oesophageal, bone marrow, colon and rectal cancer in men, biliary tract system, pancreatic, and endometrial cancer in premenopausal women, and kidney cancers. 

Finer high-risk selection 

For every 5kg increase in BMI, the researchers found that the risk of developing cancer ranged from 9% for colorectal cancer among men to 56% for biliary tract system cancer. 

70%

of adults predicted to be overweight and/or obese by 2034.

Source: Public Health England 

Risk of postmenopausal breast cancer among women who never used hormone replacement therapy increased by 11% for each 5kg of weight gain, while risk of endometrial cancer increased by 21% for each 0.1 increase in waist-to-hip ratio. 

‘Evidence of the strength of the associations between obesity and cancer may allow finer selection of people at high risk, who could be selected for personalised primary and secondary prevention strategies,’ the study authors said. 


Kyrgiou M et al (2017). Adiposity and cancer at major anatomical sites: umbrella review of the literature. The BMJ. http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.j477 

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