Obese women 40 per cent more likely to develop cancer

Mon, 23 Mar 2015
Women who are obese are 40 per cent more likely to develop some forms of cancer, according a new study.

Obesity and type 2 diabetes

Obesity has long been associated with an increased cancer risk. This may be because obesity affects the function of the immune system, or because of its affect on hormones.

Obesity is also one of the most significant factors in increasing the risk of type 2 diabetes. Although type 2 diabetes can have a number of causes, including genetic predisposition - poor diet and lack of exercise, which in many people lead to obesity, is a common cause.

Obesity also increases the risk of several diabetic complications, including heart disease and stroke. For people with type 2 diabetes, therefore, obesity is particularly damaging.

The study

The study examined the influence of obesity on the likelihood of developing seven different kinds of cancer: breast cancer, bowel cancer, pancreatic cancer, oesophageal cancer, endometrial (uterus) cancer, kidney cancer, and gallbladder cancer.

The research indicated that obese women are 41 per cent more likely to develop one of the seven kinds of cancer analysed. In a group of 1,000 obese women, 274 have a high likelihood of developing a weight-related cancer, whereas in a group of 1,000 women of a healthy weight, the figure is 194.

The researchers then examined the risk increase for each of the seven kinds of cancer:
  • 25 per cent increased risk of breast cancer
  • 31 per cent, pancreatic cancer
  • 32 per cent, bowel cancer
  • 78 per cent, kidney cancer
  • 100 per cent, gallbladder cancer
  • 131 per cent, endometrial (uterus) cancer
  • 133 per cent, oesophageal cancer
The results represent further evidence of the causal link between obesity and some types of cancer. Previous studies have shown being overweight increased the risk of 10 common kinds of cancer, including leukaemia.

The link between cancer and obesity

Dr. Julie Sharp, head of health information and Cancer Research UK, said: "We know that our cancer risk depends on a combination of our genes, our environment and other aspects of our lives, many of which we can control - helping people understand how they can reduce their risk of developing cancer in the first place remains crucial in tackling the disease.

"Lifestyle changes - like not smoking, keeping a healthy weight, eating a healthy diet and cutting back on alcohol - are the big opportunities for us all to personally reduce our cancer risk. Making these changes is not a guarantee against cancer, but it stacks the odds in our favour."
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