40% of Cancers Associated With Overweight and Obesity

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Dr. C. Brooke Steele D.O.

Division of Cancer Prevention and Control
Centers fo Disease Control and Prevention 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: This report contains new information about cancer risk and people being overweight and obese. Research shows that being overweight or having obesity is associated with at least 13 types of cancer (adenocarcinoma of the esophagus; cancers of the breast [in postmenopausal women], colon and rectum, endometrium, gallbladder, gastric cardia, kidney, liver, ovaries, pancreas, and thyroid; meningioma; and multiple myeloma). We also know that the number of people who weigh more than recommended has increased over the past few decades. Therefore, we looked at the numbers of new cases of cancers associated with overweight and having obesity in the United States, as well as how the rates have changed over a 10-year period. Because screening for colorectal cancer can reduce colorectal cancer incidence through detection and removal of precancerous polyps before they become cancerous, we analyzed trends with and without colorectal cancer.

MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings?

  • 40 percent of the nearly 1.6 million cancers diagnosed each year were cancers associated with overweight and having obesity
  • 55 percent of cancers diagnosed in women and 24 percent of those diagnosed in men are associated with overweight and having obesity. Endometrial, ovarian, and post-menopausal breast cancers accounted for 42 percent of new cancer cases in 2014, which reflects the higher overall incidence among females. Among cancers that affect both females and males, however, incidence rates for most cancers were higher in males.
  • In 2014, non-Hispanic blacks and non-Hispanic whites had higher incidence rates of cancers associated with overweight and obesity compared with other racial and ethnic groups. Black men and American Indian/Alaska Native men had higher incidence rates than white men.
  • During 2005-2014, declines were observed in the overall incidence of cancers associated with overweight and obesity (-2%), colorectal cancer (-23%), and cancers not known to be associated with overweight and having obesity (-13%). Increased use of colorectal cancer screening tests likely contributed to the decrease in colorectal cancer; when colorectal cancer was excluded, a 7% increase in overall incidence was noted. Cancers associated with overweight and obesity (excluding colorectal cancer) increased among adults aged 20-74 years and in 32 states; rates were stable in 16 states and the District of Columbia.

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: First, we would like to get the word out that overweight and obesity increase the risk for at least 13 types of cancer. Second, it will take everyone—communities, health care providers, states, and the Federal government—working together to reduce and prevent cancers associated with overweight and obesity.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: A number of studies are exploring the biological mechanisms that explain how overweight and  obesity are associated with cancer risk, including the role of the gut microbiota (or microbiome) and the role of insulin receptor signaling in cancer. Researchers are also examining why the association between cancer and overweight and obesity varies among racial/ethnic and other demographic groups, which might reflect differences in the effects of excess weight on inflammation or insulin secretion. Additional research is needed to examine the effects of intentional weight loss on risk of developing cancers associated with overweight and obesity. 

MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?

I would like to highlight a few things that can be done or are already being to help people get to and keep a healthy weight.

  • Health care providers can measure patients’ weight, height, and body mass index, and counsel them on keeping a healthy weight and its role in cancer prevention.
  • Some states and communities are partnering with business and civic leaders to make community changes that increase healthy eating and active living.
  • The Federal government is developing and promoting guidelines on dietary patterns and amounts of physical activity Americans need for good health.
  • Everyone can talk to his or her health care provider about losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight.

No disclosures 

MedicalResearch.com: Thank you for your contribution to the MedicalResearch.com community.

Citation: Steele CB, Thomas CC, Henley SJ, et al. Vital Signs: Trends in Incidence of Cancers Associated with Overweight and Obesity — United States, 2005–2014. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2017;66:1052–1058. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6639e1.

Note: Content is Not intended as medical advice. Please consult your health care provider regarding your specific medical condition and questions.

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Last Updated on October 9, 2017 by Marie Benz MD FAAD

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