Help with Weight
[ news articles ]
Behind 90,000 U.S. Cancer Deaths Each Year
By Alison McCook © Reuters
A significant proportion of deaths from cancer
may be due to excess body weight and obesity, according to an American
Cancer Society report.
on a study involving almost one
million adults, the researchers conclude that
14 percent of deaths from cancer in men and 20 percent of cancer
deaths in women may be due to being overweight and obese.
study's authors estimate that more than 90,000 cancer deaths each
year could be avoided if every American maintained a healthy weight.
"Obesity is related to most cancer sites, not just a select
few," study author Dr. Eugenia E. Calle told Reuters Health.
Calle said she hopes these results help people understand the devastating
impact being overweight or obese can have on health.
"I'm hoping that this study will increase the public awareness
that this is yet another important health outcome that obesity puts
you at higher risk for," Calle noted.
During the 16-year study, Calle and her colleagues followed more
than 900,000 U.S. adults who were free of cancer in 1982, noting
if any died of the disease. The researchers measured body weight
using body mass index, which takes into account weight and height.
Compared to people of normal weight, those who were overweight and
obese had a higher risk of death from a host of different cancers,
according to a report in The New England Journal of Medicine
Among both sexes, excess body weight upped the risk of death from
cancer of the esophagus, colon and rectum, liver, gallbladder, pancreas
and kidney, as well as for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and multiple myeloma.
In men, the heaviest individuals were more likely to die from cancer
of the stomach and prostate. In women, excess deaths were seen for
cancer of the breast, uterus, cervix and ovary.
And the higher the BMI, the more likely a person was to die from
cancer, the researchers report.
A BMI of between 18.5 and 24.9 is considered normal, between 25.0
and 29.9 overweight, and 30.0 or more obese.
Among the heaviest people -- with BMIs of at least 40 -- the risk
of death from cancer of any type was 52 percent higher in men and
62 percent higher in women than in people with normal BMIs.
"The more weight you have, the higher the risk," Calle
said in an interview.
However, the fact that death risk appears to increase incrementally
with body weight is somewhat encouraging, she added.
"Losing any kind of weight would help," Calle noted.
She explained that the current study measures risk of death from
cancer, but not the risk of developing the disease. Previous research
in breast cancer has shown that carrying extra weight can increase
the risk of both getting and dying from the disease, Calle said,
but for other types of cancer, that may not be the case.
the exact reasons why obesity might increase cancer death risk are
unclear, Calle said that people with relatively high BMIs also tend
to have higher levels of hormones in their bodies, which can predispose
them to cancer.
addition, research suggests that carrying excess weight in the abdomen
can disrupt the metabolism of insulin, resulting in a condition
that can increase cancer risks, she explained.
who are obese are also more likely to develop gallstones and reflux
disease, which can lead to chronic inflammation in the body and,
subsequently, certain types of cancer, Calle added.
a related editorial, Drs. Hans-Olov Adami of the Karolinska Institute
in Sweden and Dimitrios Trichopoulos of Harvard University in Boston
write that this is not the first study to suggest that excess body
weight increases cancer risk.
they write that programs aimed at preventing cancer through weight
control have been stymied by a number of reasons, including the
fact that other factors such as smoking play a larger role, and
researchers remain uncertain why being overweight influences cancer
remains to be seen whether the latest findings "will provide
the necessary additional motivation for controlling body weight
in the United States and around the world," Adami and Trichopoulos
has received fees from NutraSweet and Coca-Cola.
The New England Journal of Medicine 2003;348:1625-1638.
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