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Obesity causes cancer reports new study

Robin Wulffson MD's picture
cancer, obesity, pancreatic cancer, kidney cancer, esophageal cancer

A new study has reported that not only are some cancers linked to obesity and a sedentary lifestyle but also that these cancers have increased from 1999 through 2008. This occurred despite a decline in smoking rates, which decreased cases of cancer. The findings were published online on March 28 in the journal Cancer.

Cancer occurrence and trends in the United States are updated annually via a collaborative effort between the American Cancer Society (ACS), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Cancer Institute (NCI), and the North American Association of Central Cancer Registries (NAACCR). The 2012 report is focused on the increased cancer risk associated with excess weight (overweight or obesity) and lack of sufficient physical activity (less than 150 minutes of physical activity per week).

The investigators obtained data regarding cancer incidence from the CDC, NCI, and NAACCR; data on cancer deaths were obtained from the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics. Annual percent changes in incidence and death rates (age-standardized to the 2000 US population) for all cancers combined and for the leading cancers among men and among women were estimated by analysis of long-term trends (incidence for 1992-2008 and mortality for 1975-2008) and short-term trends (1999-2008). Information was obtained from national surveys about the proportion of US children, adolescents, and adults who are overweight, obese, insufficiently physically active, or physically inactive.

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The researchers found that death rates from all cancers combined decreased from 1999 to 2008; this decrease represented a continuation of a decline that began in the early 1990s; the decrease occurred among both genders in most racial and ethnic groups. From 1999 through 2008, death rates decreased from 1999 to 2008 for most types of cancer, including the 4 most common cancers (lung, colorectal, breast, and prostate). The incidence (number of cases) of prostate and colorectal cancers also decreased from 1999 to 2008. Lung cancer incidence declined from 1999 to 2008 among men and from 2004 to 2008 among women. Breast cancer incidence decreased from 1999 to 2004; however, it stabilized from 2004 to 2008. Incidence increased for several types of cancers that are related to weight: pancreas, kidney, and adenocarcinoma of the esophagus.

The authors concluded that although improvements have occurred in the number of cancer cases in the United States, excess weight and lack of sufficient physical activity contribute to the increased incidence of many cancers, adversely affect quality of life for cancer survivors, and may worsen prognosis for several cancers. The current report highlights the importance of efforts to promote healthy weight and sufficient physical activity in reducing the cancer burden in the United States.

Take home message:
This report highlights yet another negative impact on health from being overweight or obese. Obesity is currently on the rise in the U.S. and many other areas around the globe. Hopefully, more reports like this one will reverse this frightening trend.

Reference: Cancer