The scope of the obesity epidemic worldwide has been gaining more attention daily. The problem of being overweight or obese doesn’t end with concerns about a person’s appearance. The Lancet reported in a news release on Nov. 25, 2014 being overweight and obese has been linked to nearly 500,000 new cancers in 2012 worldwide.
Researchers led by Dr Melina Arnold from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) have estimated that a quarter of all obesity associated cancers in 2012, or 118, 000 cases, could be attributed to the increasing average body mass index (BMI) in the population which has been seen since 1982. These cases of cancer are being viewed as having therefore been realistically avoidable.
The findings from this study revealed that obesity associated cancer is a greater problem for women than it is for men. This finding has been observed to be primarily due to the appearance of endometrial (womb/uterus) and post-menopausal breast cancers. In 2012 excess weight was found to be responsible for 1.9 percent or 136,000 new cancers in men and 5.4 percent or 345,000 new cancer cases in women.
In women there were almost 250,000 cases of post-menopausal breast, endometrial, and colon cancers which were responsible for almost three-quarters of the obesity associated cancer burden.
In men colon and kidney cancers were found to account for greater than two-thirds of all of the nearly 90,000 obesity associated cancers.
Dr Arnold says these findings give support for a global initiative to address the rising trends in obesity. Ever since 1980 the global prevalence of obesity in adults has doubled. It appears for certain if this trend continues it will significantly increase the future burden of cancer. This is anticipated to be seen particularly in South America and North Africa where over the last 30 years the largest increases in the rate of obesity have been observed.
The Lancet Oncology reports it has been observed that high body-mass index, or a BMI of 25 kg/m2 or greater, is associated with increased risk for cancer. These findings from this study emphasize the need for a global effort aimed at lowering the increasing numbers of people with a high BMI. If we assume that the association between high BMI and cancer is causal we will see an alarming increase in the burden of cancer if the continuation of current patterns of population weight gain continue. Clearly, people who are being confronted with possible problems with excess weight should be aggressively encouraged to exercise more and eat less.