Obesity linked to 13 types of cancer (Update)

October 3, 2017 by Steven Reinberg, Healthday Reporter
Credit: CC0 Public Domain

There's a link between obesity and 40 percent of all the cancers diagnosed in the United States, health officials reported Tuesday.

That doesn't mean too much weight is causing all these cancer cases, just that there's some kind of still-to-be explained association, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Still, the study findings suggest that being obese or overweight was associated with cancer cases involving more than 630,000 Americans in 2014, and this includes 13 types of cancer.

"That obesity and overweight are affecting cancers may be surprising to many Americans. The awareness of some cancers being associated with obesity and overweight is not yet widespread," Dr. Anne Schuchat, CDC deputy director, said during a midday media briefing.

The 13 cancers include: brain cancer; multiple myeloma; cancer of the esophagus; postmenopausal breast cancer; cancers of the thyroid, gallbladder, stomach, liver, pancreas, kidney, ovaries, uterus and colon, the researchers said.

Speaking at the news conference, Dr. Lisa Richardson, director of CDC's Division of Cancer Prevention and Control, said early evidence indicates that losing weight can lower the risk for some cancers.

According to the new report from the CDC and the U.S. National Cancer Institute, these 13 obesity-related cancers made up about 40 percent of all cancers diagnosed in the United States in 2014.

Although the rate of new cancer cases has decreased since the 1990s, increases in overweight and obesity-related cancers are likely slowing this progress, the researchers said.

Of the 630,000 Americans diagnosed with a cancer associated with overweight or obesity in 2014, about two out of three occurred in adults aged 50 to 74, the researchers found.

Excluding colon cancer, the rate of obesity-related cancer increased by 7 percent between 2005 and 2014. During the same time, rates of non-obesity-related cancers dropped, the findings showed.

In 2013-2014, about two out of three American adults were overweight or obese, according to the report.

For the study, researchers analyzed 2014 cancer data from the United States Cancer Statistics report and data from 2005 to 2014.

Key findings include:

  • Of all cancers, 55 percent in women and 24 percent in men were associated with overweight and obesity.
  • Blacks and whites had higher rates of weight-related cancer than other racial or ethnic groups.
  • Black men and American Indian/Alaska Native men had higher rates of cancer than white men.
  • Cancers linked to obesity increased 7 percent between 2005 and 2014, but colon cancer decreased 23 percent. Screening for colon cancer is most likely the reason for that cancer's continued decline, Schuchat said.
  • Cancers not linked to obesity dropped 13 percent.
  • Except for colon cancer, cancers tied to overweight and obesity increased among those younger than 75.

The new report was published online Oct. 3 in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Dr. Farhad Islami is strategic director of cancer surveillance research for the American Cancer Society.

He said it's "important to note that only a fraction of the cancers included in the calculation in this report are actually caused by excess body weight."

According to Islami, "many are attributable to other known risk factors, like smoking, while for many others, the cause is unknown. Obesity is more strongly associated with some cancers than others."

The World Cancer Research Fund estimates that "20 percent of all cancers in the United States are caused by a combination of excess body weight, physical inactivity, excess alcohol, and poor nutrition. The American Cancer Society is currently doing its own extensive calculation of the numbers and proportions of cancer cases attributable to excess body weight, the results of which will be published soon," he said.

Explore further: Another obesity downside: higher esophageal cancer risk

More information: Farhad Islami, M.D., Ph.D., strategic director, cancer surveillance research, American Cancer Society; Oct. 3, 2017, media briefing with Anne Schuchat, M.D., deputy director, and Lisa Richardson, M.D., M.P.H., director, division of cancer prevention and control, both U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Oct. 3, 2017, CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, online.

Learn more about cancer and obesity at the U.S. National Cancer Institute.

Related Stories

Another obesity downside: higher esophageal cancer risk

March 15, 2017
(HealthDay)—Overweight 20-somethings dramatically increase their risk of esophageal and stomach cancer if they become obese later in life, a new study suggests.

Excess weight linked to eight more cancer types

August 24, 2016
There's yet another reason to maintain a healthy weight as we age. An international team of researchers has identified eight additional types of cancer linked to excess weight and obesity: stomach, liver, gall bladder, pancreas, ...

Excess body weight boosts risk of 10 common cancers, study reports

August 13, 2014
Being overweight boosts the risk of 10 common cancers, said a study of five million UK adults that prompted a call Thursday for tougher anti-obesity measures.

Bigger bodies bringing more cancers

December 8, 2014
Growing obesity levels are increasing the burden of cancers throughout the world, say University of Queensland researchers.

Obesity tied to higher cancer risk for CRC survivors

October 1, 2014
(HealthDay)—Colorectal cancer (CRC) patients who are overweight or obese when diagnosed appear to face a slightly higher risk for developing a second weight-related cancer, according to research published online Sept. 29 ...

Fewer overweight adults report trying to lose weight

March 7, 2017
Although weight gain has continued among U.S. adults, fewer report trying to lose weight, according to a study appearing in the March 7 issue of JAMA.

Recommended for you

DNA vaccine leads to immune responses in HPV-related head and neck cancer

September 21, 2018
A therapeutic vaccine can boost antibodies and T cells, helping them infiltrate tumors and fight off human papillomavirus (HPV)-related head and neck cancer. Researchers from the Abramson Cancer Center of the University of ...

In zebrafish, a way to find new cancer therapies, targeting tumor modulators

September 21, 2018
The lab of Leonard Zon, MD, at Boston Children's Hospital has long been interested in making blood stem cells in quantity for therapeutic purposes. Looking for a way to test for their presence in zebrafish, their go-to research ...

What can salad dressing tell us about cancer? Think oil and vinegar

September 20, 2018
Researchers led by St. Jude Children's Research Hospital scientists have identified another way the process that causes oil to form droplets in water may contribute to solid tumors, such as prostate and breast cancer. The ...

Novel biomarker found in ovarian cancer patients can predict response to therapy

September 20, 2018
Despite months of aggressive treatment involving surgery and chemotherapy, about 85 percent of women with high-grade wide-spread ovarian cancer will have a recurrence of their disease. This leads to further treatment, but ...

Testing fluorescent tracers used to help surgeons determine edges of breast cancer tumors

September 20, 2018
A team of researchers with members from institutions in The Netherlands and China has conducted a test of fluorescent tracers meant to aid surgeons performing tumor removal in breast cancer patients. In their paper published ...

Cancer immunotherapy might benefit from previously overlooked immune players

September 20, 2018
Cancer immunotherapy—efforts to boost a patient's own immune system, allowing it to better fight cancer cells on its own—has shown great promise for some previously intractable cancers. Yet immunotherapy doesn't work ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.