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Cancer Linked With Obesity, Especially Among Older People

Weight-related cancers represent 40 percent of all diagnosed cases

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Elevated weight is associated with increased risk in at least 13 types of cancers.

Approximately 630,000 people in the United States were diagnosed with a cancer associated with being overweight or obese in 2014, and about 2 in 3 cases occurred in adults 50 to 74 years old. This represents a 7 percent increase in obesity-related cancers, not including colorectal cancer, between 2005 and 2014, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In contrast, the rates of cancers not related to obesity declined during that time.

Elevated weight is associated with increased risk in at least 13 types of cancers that account for about 40 percent of all cancers diagnosed in 2014, according to the new report Vital Signs. CDC and National Cancer Institute researchers analyzed 2014 cancer incidence data from the United States Cancer Statistics report and reviewed data from 2005 to 2014 to determine trends for cancers associated with overweight and obesity.

In 2013-2014, about 2 out of 3 adults in the U.S. were overweight (having a body mass index [BMI] of 25-29.9 kg/m) or obese (a BMI of 30 kg/m or higher). BMI is a person’s weight in kilograms divided by their height in meters. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) identified 13 cancers associated with excess weight: meningioma, multiple myeloma, adenocarcinoma of the esophagus, and cancers of the thyroid, postmenopausal breast, gallbladder, stomach, liver, pancreas, kidney, ovaries, uterus, and colon and rectum (colorectal).  

“As an oncologist, when people ask me if there’s a cure for cancer, I say, ‘Yes, good health is the best prescription for preventing chronic diseases, including cancer,’” Lisa C. Richardson, M.D., director of CDC’s Division of Cancer Prevention and Control, said in a statement. “What that means to health care providers like me is helping people to have the information they need to make healthy choices where they live, work, learn and play."