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Obesity: Nine Cancers, 335 Cases Daily

Fit man measuring waistThe latest Continuous Update Project report on prostate cancer makes this cancer the ninth cancers linked to excess body fat. Updated AICR estimates show that approximately 335 cases of cancer in the United States could be prevented every day. Reports from AICR and the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) International, reviews of the global research, link excess body fat to increased risk of nine cancers, including ovarian, colorectal, postmenopausal breast and endometrial.

Preventing Thousands of Cancer Cases

AICR estimates that approximately 122,200 cases of cancer occurring in the United States every year are attributable to excess body fat. The figure has increased steadily, from the 100,000 preventable cases of cancer cited in 2009 to almost 117,000 estimated in 2013. More obesity-related cancers and increases in incidences have led to the increased estimates.

One third of US adults are obese and another one third are overweight, according to the most recent government statistics. And approximately one-third of children and adolescents ages 6 to 19 are overweight or obese.

There are several ways in which excess body fat may increase cancer risk. Fat tissue produces proteins called cytokines that can cause chronic inflammation, which increases cancer risk. Being overweight and obese also increases blood levels of insulin and related hormones that can spur the growth of cancer cells.

Percentage of Cancers that Could Be Prevented by Staying Lean

Cancer Site% link to excess
body fat: MEN
% link to excess
body fat: WOMEN
Cases Prevented Annually
Prostate (advanced)  11% 1,794
Ovarian 5%  1,099
Breast (postmenopausal) 17% 39,554
Endometrium 50% 26,315
Kidney 20% 28% 14,766
Gallbladder 11% 28% 2,139
Esophagus 32% 38% 6,025
Pancreas 17% 20% 8,578
Colorectum 17% 15% 21,961
TOTAL 122,231

*Sources: AICR/WRCF, Policy and Action for Cancer Prevention 2009 and Continuous Update Project reports (updated March 2014); Siegel, Rebecca, et al. "Cancer statistics, 2014." CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. Volume 64, Issue 1, pages 9 29, January/February 2014

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