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Link Between Obesity and Several Cancers

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Link Between Obesity and Several Cancers

A recent meta-analysis undertaken by the IARC (1) and considering more than 1000 studies, has linked over eight cancers to excessive body fat.  Stomach, liver, gall bladder, pancreas, ovary, thyroid, meningioma – a type of brain tumour – and blood cancer multiple myeloma. There is also limited evidence that the absence of excess body fatness reduces the risk of fatal cancer of the prostate, cancer of the breast in men, and diffuse large B-cell lymphoma.

Body fatness is assessed primarily by body mass index (BMI) see  Midlife Weight Affects Longevity for Men,  to learn about BMI)  Worldwide, an estimated 640 million adults were obese in 2014 (a 6-fold increase since 1975) and 110 million children and adolescents were obese in 2013 (a 2-fold increase since 1980). The estimated age-standardized prevalence of obesity in 2014 was 10.8% in men, 14.9% in women, and 5.0% in children, and globally more people are overweight or obese than are underweight. In 2013, an estimated 4.5 million deaths worldwide were attributable to overweight and obesity. The identification of new obesity-related cancer sites will add to the number of deaths worldwide attributable to obesity.


The recent study supports earlier work:

NCBI (3)reported in 2010 that weight, weight gain, and obesity account for approximately 20% of all cancer cases

NCI (2)study of data for 2007 concluded in the United States, that about 34,000 new cases of cancer in men (4 percent) were due to obesity.  The percentage of cases attributed to obesity varied widely for different cancer types but was as high as 40 percent for some cancers,  particularly oesophageal adenocarcinoma (cancer of the oesophagus)


What’s your BMI? 

If you have made it to middle age as overweight or obese then work such as this certainly gives  support to the need for you to clean up your act.  See other Midlife Man articles on the downside of carrying excess weight.   


  1. IARC  - International Agency for Research on Cancer
  2. NCI - USA National Cancer Institute  
  3. NCBI - National Center for Biotechnology Information





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