Nearly half a million new cancer cases per year can be attributed to high body mass index (higher than 25). According to a new study conducted by researchers from the International Agency for Research on Cancer and published in The Lancet Oncology, these cases are highest in richer countries but the effects are now visible in parts of the developing world. Data was utilized from numerous sources including the GLOBOCAN database of cancer incidence and mortality for 184 countries.
High body mass index (BMI) is a known risk factor for many types of cancers, including those affecting the esophagus, colon, rectum, kidneys, pancreas, gallbladder, breasts, ovaries, and uterus (endometrium). North America and Europe account for the majority of cases with Eastern Europe accounting for approximately 6.5% of all new European cancer cases.
The proportion of cancers related to obesity were significantly higher in women than men. The data showed that postmenopausal breast, corpus uteri, and colon cancers were responsible for the majority of BMI-related cancers in women (almost 250,000 cases), data showed that in men colon and kidney cancers accounted for 66% of all BMI-related cancers.
Current patterns of population weight gain will lead to continuing increases in the future economic, personal, and societal burden of cancer. However, other experts feel that resources targeted at obesity must be balanced against those for other important causes of cancer, such as infections and tobacco use, both of which are associated with much larger proportions of cancer cases than obesity.
Being overweight or obese is also associated with an increased risk of diabetes, sleep apnea, gallbladder disease, osteoporosis, and cardiovascular disease such as heart attack and stroke.
Arnold, M., Pandeya, N., Byrnes, G., Renehan, A. G., Stevens, G. A., Ezzati, M., Ferlay, J., Miranda, J., Romieu, I., Diskshit, R., Forman, D., & Soerjomataram, I. (2014). Global burden of cancer attributable to high body-mass index in 2012: a population-based study. The Lancet Oncology, Early Online Publication, 26 November 2014, doi:10.1016/S1470-2045(14)71123-4.