High BMI linked to Cancer

bmiA study published in the Lancet Oncology has linked half a million new annual cancer cases to body mass index. The study determined that 3.6% of total global cancer burden is linked with high BMI. High body mass index is known to be a risk factor for cancers affecting the esophagus, colon, rectum, kidneys, pancreas, gallbladder, breasts, ovaries and endometrium.

“Overall, we see that while the number of cancer cases associated with overweight and obesity remains highest in richer countries, similar effects are already visible in parts of the developing world,” explains co-lead author Dr. Isabelle Soerjomataram.

The research analysis revealed that the most impacted area is North America representing 23% of total BMI related cancer cases, followed by Europe and Eastern Europe and revealed a significant gender difference in cancer cases.

The countries with highest cancer burden attributable to overweight and obesity in men were:

Czech Republic (5.5% of the country’s new cancer cases)
Jordan (4.5%)
UK (4.4%)
Malta (4.4%).

For women, the countries with the highest cancer burden attributable to overweight and obesity were:

Barbados (12.7% of the country’s new cancer cases)
Czech Republic (12.0%)
Puerto Rico (11.6%).

“Women are disproportionately affected by obesity-related cancers,” said Dr. Melina Arnold, one of the study’s lead authors. “For example, for postmenopausal breast cancer, the most common cancer in women worldwide, the study suggests that 10% of these cancers could have been prevented by having a healthy body weight.”

Dr. Christopher Wild, director of the International Agency for Research on Cancer, expressed his concern on the study’s findings:

“The number of cancers linked to obesity and overweight is expected to rise globally along with economic development. This study stresses the importance of putting in place efficient weight control measures, to curb the high number of cancers associated with excess body weight and to avoid the problems faced by rich countries being repeated in those now undergoing rapid development.”


Global burden of cancer attributable to high body-mass index in 2012: a population-based study, Isabelle Soerjomataram, et al., The Lancet Oncology, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/ S1470-2045(14)71123-4, published 26 November 2014, abstract.

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