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March 19, 2014 | 2 minute read

Updated Estimate on Obesity-Related Cancers

AICR’s new report on ovarian cancer makes this cancer the eighth cancers linked to excess body fat. Updated AICR estimates show that approximately 320 cases of cancer in the United States could be prevented every day. AICR/WCRF’s systematic review of the global research links excess body fat to increased risk of eight cancers, including ovarian, colorectal, postmenopausal breast and endometrial.

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
Ovarian5% 1,099
Breast (postmenopausal)17%39,554

*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

Preventing Thousands of Cancer Cases

AICR estimates that over 120,000 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.

In total, AICR/WCRF estimates that approximately 375,000 cases of the most common cancers in the United States can be prevented each year by eating a healthy diet, undertaking regular physical activity, being at a healthy weight and limiting alcohol consumption.


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