It is an unfortunate truth that both the United States’ and the world’s populations are becoming fatter. It seems that with each passing year, obesity rates increase – which sparks a whole host of other diseases. In fact, one report by the World Health Organization’s cancer research agency says that obesity is now responsible for nearly 500,000 cancer cases each year.
The report, which was published in the medical journal Lancet Oncology, gathered information from 184 countries.
“Among women, postmenopausal breast, endometrial and colon cancers accounted for nearly three-quarters (250,000 cases) of obesity-related cancers, while colon and kidney cancers accounted for more than two-thirds (nearly 90,000 cases) of obesity-related cancers in men.”
Scientists hypothesize that obesity and being overweight trigger cancer by changing insulin, glucose and hormone levels, and increasing chronic inflammation. This is believed to be more common and likely to occur in women’s bodies.
They also note that a high body mass index (BMI) – a person’s weight in kilograms divided by the square of their height in meters – is now a primary determining factor in cancer risk.
For the research, scientists focused on the ‘number of cancers caused by obesity.’ These include cancer of the: oesophagus, colon, rectum, kidney, pancreas, gallbladder, postmenopausal breast, ovary, and endometrium.
The study’s lead researcher of the International Agency for Research on Cancer said:
“For women, we know there’s more cancer sites that are related to obesity, such as post-menopausal breast cancer but also breast cancer and cancer of the womb. So, those are very common cancers that are only affecting women. That’s why we found this higher burden.”
“Our findings add support for a global effort to address the rising trends in obesity. 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.”
The WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, Christopher Wild explains how the results point to a much-needed lifestyle reform among the general population. Now it seems even more important to regularly exercise, eat healthful, whole foods, and engage in an overall active and healthy lifestyle.
“The number of cancers linked to obesity and overweight is expected to rise globally along with economic development.”
According to the study:
“Worldwide, we estimate that 481 000 or 3.6% of all new cancer cases in adults (aged 30 years and older after the 10-year lag period) in 2012 were attributable to high BMI. PAFs were greater in women than in men (5·4% vs 1·9%). The burden of attributable cases was higher in countries with very high and high human development indices (HDIs; PAF 5·3% and 4·8%, respectively) than in those with moderate (1·6%) and low HDIs (1·0%). Corpus uteri, postmenopausal breast, and colon cancers accounted for 63·6% of cancers attributable to high BMI. A quarter (about 118 000) of the cancer cases related to high BMI in 2012 could be attributed to the increase in BMI since 1982.”
The study also found:
- Approximately 65,000 cases were recorded in Europe
- A mortality rate of 50,000 in China
- 6,000 cancer cases per year in Canada
Dr. Benjamin Cairns, from the University of Oxford in the U.K., wrote:
“If 3.6 percent of all cancers are associated with [overweight and obesity], that is nearly half a million cancers, but this number is large mainly because the world population is large. Global health resources specifically for cancer prevention are not so large, and the resources targeted at obesity must be balanced against those for other important causes of cancer, particularly infections and tobacco use, which are each associated with much larger proportions of cases.”
Dr. Darren Brenner, who works with Alberta Health Services and is not linked to the Lancet Oncology-published study, said:
“In Canada, that works out to be about 6,000 cancer cases per year that are attributable to excess body weight. So when we think about it in those absolute terms, I think it’s very very important that people take these results seriously.”