Obesity Now Linked to Various Forms of Cancer

Obesity is a rising global problem. In fact, a staggering 69 percent of the U.S. population is overweight or obese1 (over 59 percent in the EU2). Asia is also experiencing an uptick, particularly in Malaysia, where obesity rates are now over 50 percent.3

These numbers are especially concerning when you consider a recent analysis conducted by the Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). The assessment, which examines more than 1000 relevant studies published in the last 14 years, is a follow up to the Agency’s first scientific review conducted in 2002.

Cancers Implicated in the First (2002) Review

In 2002, the IARC reported that excess body weight increased one’s risk for the following cancers:

  • Colon and rectum cancers
  • Esophagus adenocarcinoma (a stomach cancer)
  • Kidney or renal cell carcinoma
  • Postmenopausal breast cancer
  • Cancer in the endometrium of the uterus

New Cancers Called Out in the 2016 Review

The new report, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, adds 8 new cancers to the list:

  • Gastric cancer
  • Liver cancer
  • Gallbladder cancer
  • Multiple myeloma (a blood cancer)
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Thyroid cancer
  • Meningioma (a cancer that affects the tissue surrounding the brain and spine)

The panel, made up of 21 cancer experts, named corpus uteri (cancer of the uterus) and esophagus adenocarcinoma as the two cancers that pose the highest risk.

Scientists believe that excess body fat activates chronic inflammation throughout the body. Chronic inflammation, in turn, interferes with the production and modulation of sex hormones, which act as pathways for the growth and development of cancer cells.

1National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
2World Health Organization, 2015
3The Lancet: Global, regional, and national prevalence of overweight and obesity in children and adults