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March 11, 2014 | 3 minute read

Major New Report Now Links Body Weight to Ovarian Cancer

WASHINGTON, DC — For the first time, a comprehensive report from the leading authority on diet, weight, physical activity and cancer risk finds that being overweight increases women’s risk of ovarian cancer, the most deadly gynecological cancer in the United States. The report, an analysis of the global research by the American Institute for Cancer Research and World Cancer Research Fund (AICR/WCRF), means that ovarian cancer now joins the growing list of cancers whose risk is increased by carrying excess body fat.

That list includes post-menopausal breast cancer, colorectal cancer, endometrial cancer, esophageal cancer, kidney cancer, gallbladder cancer and pancreatic cancer. Added together, approximately 585,600 cases of these eight cancers are diagnosed in the U.S. every year. AICR now estimates that being at a healthy weight could prevent 1 in 5 of these cases – or approximately 120,900 cancer cases every year.

“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.”

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 128 population studies that investigated how diet, weight and activity link to ovarian cancer.

The 25 studies that focused on weight included 4 million women, 16,000 of whom developed ovarian cancer. The report showed a dose-response relationship: a six percent increased risk of developing ovarian cancer for every 5-point increase in BMI, a common measure of body fatness.

Stark Statistics

Every year in the U.S., approximately 14,000 women die from ovarian cancer. It is the fifth leading cause of cancer death, mainly because difficulty in detection means many women are not diagnosed until the disease’s later stages.

In the U.S., approximately two-thirds of women are overweight or obese, placing them at increased risk for developing any of the eight cancers now known to be related to body weight. If you don’t know whether you fall in the range classified as “healthy weight” by researchers, you can check your BMI status on the AICR website.

“These latest findings from the Continuous Update Project offer another reminder that our weight, and our lifestyle, play an important role in cancer risk for both women and men,” says AICR Associate Director of Nutrition Programs, Alice Bender, MS, RDN. “This is really an empowering message. There are no guarantees, but adding activity into your day and healthy plant foods onto your plate are steps you can take today to reduce your risk of cancer and other chronic conditions as well.”

The CUP monitors and analyzes research on cancer prevention and draws conclusions on how lifestyle factors such as weight, diet and physical activity can reduce the risk of developing cancer. A panel of independent experts determines whether the scientific evidence has changed and how it affects AICR/WCRF’s 10 Recommendations for Cancer Prevention. The CUP has so far reported on breast, colorectal, pancreatic, endometrial and ovarian cancers.

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