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Proportion of Cancer Due to Obesity High: Study

In the United States, roughly 10% of all cancers — more than 100,000 cases a year — could be avoided if overweight and obesity did not exist.

Dr. Graham Colditz from the Harvard School of Public Health explained that, the new projections stem from a review of published studies, updates to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) report from 2002, and data from the Nurses’ Health Study II, which includes 116,686 women.

By applying the current US levels of overweight and obesity, Dr. Colditz estimated that 14% of colon cancers — over 14,000 cases — would be avoided if no one was overweight or obese.

Likewise, if no one was overweight or obese, "we would avoid 11% of breast cancer — over 18,000 cases; 49% of endometrial cancer, almost 20,000 cases; 31% of kidney cancer, over 11,000 cases; 39% of esophageal cancer, 5,500 cases; 14% of pancreas cancers, 4,500 cases; 20% of non-Hodgkin lymphoma cases, over 11,000 cases; and for multiple myeloma 17% of cases," Dr. Colditz told reporters.

Given the increasing prevalence of obesity in the US, these estimates are conservative, he said.

"We can clearly conclude that adult overweight and obesity cause cancer," Dr. Colditz said, "and increasing rates of obesity in the US are continuing to drive up the burden of these cancers."

"The data overall reinforce the message," he added, "to avoid weight gain as an adult and to lose weight and keep it off if one is overweight or obese as this can reduce the risk of cancer in addition to other chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and stroke."

Evidence is accumulating that losing weight will reduce the risk of cancer, Dr. Colditz also said, noting that data from four prospective studies looking at BMI and breast cancer suggest that women who lose 5 to 20 pounds statistically significantly reduce their risk of developing breast cancer.

Results are from updated statistics on the proportion of cancer due to obesity released Monday at the American Association for Cancer Research’s 4th International Conference on Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research underway in Baltimore.

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DID YOU KNOW: Trans Fatty Acids are a much larger concern today: An online survey of more than 5,000 U.S. adults taken in January showed that more people are concerned about their intake of trans fatty acids, which can increase cholesterol levels and are linked to heart disease, compared with a 2003 survey.

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