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Researchers Find Rise in Obesity-Related Cancers Worldwide

Previous studies have found that high body-mass index (BMI) is associated with an increased risk of cancer. A recent study looked further into this and found that a quarter of all obesity-related cancers in 2012 can be attributed to the rise in average BMI since 1982.

The researchers examined data from multiple sources, including the GLOBOCAN database of cancer incidence and mortality for 184 countries. They found that obesity-related cancer is more common in women than in men, which they attributed to endometrial and post-menopausal cancers.

In men, 136,000 or 1.9% of new cancers in 2012 could be attributed to excess weight while the number was 345,000 or 5.4% in women. Approximately 75% of the weight-related cancers in women were post-menopausal breast cancer, endometrial cancer, and colon cancer. In men, approximately 66% of the obesity-related cancers were colon and kidney cancers.

The researchers found that in developed countries, 8% of cancers in women and 3% of cancers in men were obesity-related, whereas those numbers were 1.5% and 0.3% in developing countries.

Regionally, North American accounted for 23% of all obesity-related cancers worldwide. Sub-Saharan Africa had the fewest, with 1.5%, and Eastern Europe accounted for more than a third of all obesity-related cancers in Europe.

There was also a large difference between countries. For example, the Czech Republic had a particularly high rate for men, with 5.5% of new cancers in 2012 attributed to obesity. Barbados had a particularly high rate for women - 12.7% - while countries in sub-Saharan Africa had the lowest for men (2%) and women (4%).

The researchers concluded that addressing obesity worldwide is important in order to curb the rise in incidences of cancer.

Researchers from the International Agency for Research on Cancer conducted the study. It was published online ahead of print on November 26, 2014, in The Lancet Oncology.

Obesity has a far ranging negative effect on health. Each year, obesity causes approximately 300,000 premature deaths in the United States. The negative health effects associated with obesity include high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, osteoarthritis, metabolic syndrome and sleep apnea.

Improving eating habits and increasing physical activity play a vital role in preventing obesity. It is recommended that we eat five to six servings of fruits and vegetables per day. It also recommended that we get at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity activity every day.

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