Study has found strong links between excess body fat and eleven types of cancers

weight cancer

A study conducted by the International Agency for Research on Cancer has found strong links between excess body fat and eleven types of cancers.

Being overweight could increase the risk of a host of cancers, including those of the colon, breast, pancreas and ovary, researchers have warned following a wide review of more than 200 studies.

Published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), the study examined evidence from 204 previously published studies which each looked at combined results from multiple pieces of research probing the link between body fat and the development of particular cancers.

Of the 95 studies which looked at obesity measures on a continuous scale such as body mass index, 12 were found to offer strong evidence of an association, encompassing a total of nine different cancers.

“I think now the public and physicians really need to pay attention to obesity with respect to cancer,” said Marc Gunter, a co-author of the research from the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

“Telling people to avoid being overweight not only reduces their risk of, say, diabetes and cardiovascular disease, it also reduces their risk of many different cancers.”

Breast, ovary, kidney, biliary tract, oesophagus, colon, rectal, endometrium, pancreas, gastric cardia and some cancers of the bone marrow were named as the eleven cancers with strong links supporting increased risk and body fat.

The research showed that a person with an elevated BMI (Body Mass Index, a ratio that can help identify whether a person is normal, underweight, overweight, or obese – although this is not a definitive indicator but more of a guide) was more likely to develop one of these types of cancers than a person within the normal BMI range.

Although there is no evidence to state why people with excessive amount of fat are at higher risk of developing these type of cancers, the link could provide policy writers evidence to help reduce obesity within their populations. Weight is only second to tobacco as the top preventable risk factor for developing cancer. Reducing your weight, even slightly, can improve your overall health and reduce your risk of hypertension, diabetes and cancer.

What can you do? Small changes in your lifestyle can help reduce your BMI, such as adding more veggies to your diet or increasing your daily activity levels by 5 to 10 minutes. If you want to know your risk, your GP or practice nurse can conduct a health assessment and start a conversation of how to improve your health if your BMI is above the normal range.

Our Doing Exercise section on our main Live Better With website has multiple products that are aimed for people that are wanting to reduce their BMI or continue gentle exercise while undergoing cancer treatment.