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April 3, 2014 | 2 minute read

Body Fat a Factor in Ovarian Cancer Risk

Ovarian cancer is the eighth cancer to be linked to excess body weight, says a new report from the AICR Continuous Update Project (CUP). With about two-thirds of women in the U.S. now overweight or obese, this finding suggests they are at increased risk for ovarian cancer.

“This is an important finding,” said Elisa V. Bandera, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Epidemiology at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, and one of the expert panelists who authored the new AICR/WCRF Continuous Update Project (CUP) report, “because it shows a way for women to reduce their chances of getting ovarian cancer. There is so much we don’t know about preventing ovarian cancer, but now we can tell women that keeping to a healthy weight can help protect against this deadly disease.”

Ovarian cancer causes more deaths than any other gynecologic cancer. That’s because its symptoms, such as abdominal bloating, are difficult to detect until it has progressed to a late stage.

This latest report from the AICR/WCRF Continuous Update Project (CUP), Ovarian Cancer 2014 Report: Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity and the Prevention of Ovarian Cancer, analyzed 25 population studies that focused on weight and ovarian cancer.

Seven more types of cancer are linked to overweight and obesity:

  • colorectal
  • post-menopausal breast
  • endometrial (uterine)
  • esophageal
  • kidney
  • pancreatic
  • gallbladder

Pinpointing Prevention Factors

The link to overweight is the first time AICR/WCRF has judged the evidence strong enough to link to ovarian cancer. To date, AICR’s analysis of the research has found no specific foods that are consistently associated with ovarian cancer risk. Likewise, physical activity by itself has not been conclusively identified as a prevention factor.

However, body weight is influenced by a person’s diet, along with physical activity habits. For lower risk of cancer, AICR recommends eating a mostly plant-based diet of foods that are naturally low in calorie density, as well as 30 minutes or more of moderate physical activity daily.

Putting these two AICR recommendations into practice each day can help you reach a healthy body weight. You can find out what your BMI is with our BMI calculator.

The AICR CUP monitors and analyzes research on cancer prevention and draws conclusions on how weight, diet and physical activity can reduce the risk of developing cancer. The CUP has so far reported on breast, colorectal, pancreatic, endometrial and ovarian cancers.

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