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Obesity and cancer

US report finds obesity linked to 13 types of cancer

(Credit: Cancer Research UK)
There is a link between obesity and 40 percent of all the cancers diagnosed in the US

According to the report from the CDC and the US National Cancer Institute being obese or overweight was associated with cancer cases involving more than 630,000 Americans in 2014, and this includes 13 types of cancer, about 40 percent of all cancers diagnosed in the US in 2014.

The 13 cancers include: brain cancer; multiple myeloma; cancer of the oesophagus; postmenopausal breast cancer; cancers of the thyroid, gallbladder, stomach, liver, pancreas, kidney, ovaries, uterus and colon, the researchers said.

"That obesity and overweight are affecting cancers may be surprising to many Americans,” said Dr Anne Schuchat, CDC deputy director. “The awareness of some cancers being associated with obesity and overweight is not yet widespread.”

Of the 630,000 Americans diagnosed with a cancer associated with overweight or obesity in 2014, about two out of three occurred in adults aged 50 to 74, the researchers found. Excluding colon cancer, the rate of obesity-related cancer increased by 7 percent between 2005 and 2014. During the same time, rates of non-obesity-related cancers dropped, the findings showed. In 2013-2014, about two out of three American adults were overweight or obese, according to the report.

Dr Lisa Richardson, director of CDC's Division of Cancer Prevention and Control, said early evidence indicates that losing weight can lower the risk for some cancers.

Although the rate of new cancer cases has decreased since the 1990s, increases in overweight and obesity-related cancers are likely slowing this progress, the researchers said.

For the study, researchers analysed 2014 cancer data from the US Cancer Statistics report and data from 2005 to 2014.

Key findings include:

  • Of all cancers, 55 percent in women and 24 percent in men were associated with overweight and obesity.
  • Blacks and whites had higher rates of weight-related cancer than other racial or ethnic groups.
  • Black men and American Indian/Alaska Native men had higher rates of cancer than white men.
  • Cancers linked to obesity increased 7 percent between 2005 and 2014, but colon cancer decreased 23 percent. Screening for colon cancer is most likely the reason for that cancer's continued decline, Schuchat said.
  • Cancers not linked to obesity dropped 13 percent.
  • Except for colon cancer, cancers tied to overweight and obesity increased among those younger than 75.

"It is important to note that only a fraction of the cancers included in the calculation in this report are actually caused by excess body weight,” said Dr. Farhad Islami, strategic director of cancer surveillance research for the American Cancer Society. “Many are attributable to other known risk factors, like smoking, while for many others, the cause is unknown. Obesity is more strongly associated with some cancers than others." 

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