A new study has found that excess body weight accounted for 544,300 cases of cancer worldwide in 2012. This was approximately 3.9 percent of all cancer cases that year.
The study has been published in CA: Cancer Journal for Clinicians, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society.
It cautions that this figure is expected to rise over time given the increasingly sedentary lifestyles and marketing practices that encourage the consumption of foods rich in energy but lacking nutrients.
In 2016, 40 percent of adults and 18 percent of children (aged 5-19 years) were found to be overweight.
The study uses Body Mass Index (BMI) to determine which weights are healthy and which are not. People with a BMI over 25 kilograms per square meter are classified as carrying excess weight, which is in line with World Health Organization (WHO) standards. The study states that the prevalence of excess body fat began increasing worldwide in the 1970s. There have also been steep increases in low and middle income countries, which the report has stated is likely the result of the spread of “Western lifestyles.”
However, national wealth is still the most apparent systematic driver of population obesity. Each $10,000 increase in average national income is associated with a 0.4 increase in BMI among adults. High-income Asian Pacific countries seem to be the exception here, and this has been linked to these countries’ adherence to traditional diets as well as an active transportation system that entails walking as a daily activity.
Excess body fat has been linked to an increased risk of 13 cancers in particular: cancers of the breast (postmenopausal), colon and rectum (colorectal), corpus uteri, esophagus (adenocarcinoma), gallbladder, kidney, liver, ovary, pancreas, stomach (cardia), and thyroid, as well as meningioma and multiple myeloma. More recently, being overweight has been labeled a probable cause of advanced prostate cancer as well as cancers of the mouth, pharynx, and larynx.
“There is emerging consensus on opportunities for obesity control through the multisectoral coordinated implementation of core policy actions to promote an environment conducive to a healthy diet and active living,” the authors write. “The rapid increase in both the prevalence of excess body weight and the associated cancer burden highlights the need for a rejuvenated focus on identifying, implementing, and evaluating interventions to prevent and control excess body weight.”