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WHO study links excess body fat to risks for eight more types of cancer

Scientists from The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) studying the impact of body fat on cancer risks have found that a person’s weight may influence to some extent their cancer risk profile for several types of cancer.
Whilst the news carries a warning for those presenting this risk factor as a result of a metabolic disease like type 2 diabetes, there is no reason to be unduly anxious. The findings do, however, back up the importance of being aware of cancer symptoms and taking preventative measures such as following a healthy lifestyle.
In their latest research, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, experts from the IARC (an arm of the World Health Organisation) show that carrying excess body fat can increase a middle-aged adult’s chance of developing different types of cancer.
These include cancers of the stomach, liver, gall bladder, pancreas, ovary, meningioma (a type of brain tumour), thyroid cancer, and multiple myeloma (blood cancer).
Researchers made the discovery after conducting a post-hoc analysis of more than 1,000 studies on the relationship between excess weight and cancer risk.
Previous work from the same group in 2002 linked excess weight to higher risks of colon, oesophagus, kidney, uterus and breast (in postmenopausal women) cancers.
The 21 independent international experts involved in the study also found evidence that the higher a person’s Body Mass Index (BMI), the greater the cancer risk.
However, the research also indicated that there was limited evidence that people of a normal weight had a lower chance of dying from prostate cancer, breast cancer in men, as well as a type of lymphoma.
For lead author Dr Beatrice Lauby-Secretan and her colleagues, these findings reinforce the idea that the absence of excess body fat can in some cases be cancer-preventive.
Many of the newly identified cancers linked to excess weight aren’t cancers that people would have thought as having a weight component.
Therefore, in order to combat cancer in England – where around two-thirds of men and over half of women are overweight or obese – public health efforts should now focus their policies on lifestyle factors such as eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight and exercising, in addition to not smoking.

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