Latest News » New study links obesity to half-million cancer diagnoses per year

Obesity is a risk factor for hundreds of thousands of new cancer cases per year, according to a new study.

Some of the health risks associated with obesity—cardiovascular disease, stroke, high blood pressure—have long been well-documented, and research over the last several years have pointed to the effects of excess weight on the likelihood of developing cancer as well. But a recent study puts this connection in a whole new perspective, revealing that obesity is responsible for as many as 500,000 newly diagnosed cancers every year.

The global study, conducted by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, analyzed 184 countries and found that excess weight was linked to 1.9 percent of new cancers diagnosed in men in 2012 and 5.4 percent in women—tantamount to 136,000 and 345,000 new cancers, respectively. Of these diagnoses, two-thirds occurred in North America and Europe.

Two-thirds of the obesity-related cancers cases among men were colon and kidney cancers (approximately 90,000 diagnoses) while breast, colon and endometrial cancers comprised 75 percent of the diagnoses among women (250,000 cases).

"Our findings add support for a global effort to address the rising trends in obesity," said Dr. Melinda Arnold, the study's lead author, in an official statement. "The global prevalence of obesity in adults has doubled since 1980. If this trend continues, it will certainly boost the future burden of cancer, particularly in South America and North Africa, where the largest increases in the rate of obesity have been seen over the last 30 years."

While this research can't definitively prove a cause-and-effect relationship between obesity and cancer, it certainly does indicate a strong association between the two—and adds yet another reason why it's important to manage your weight at healthier levels.

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