Almost half of cancers diagnosed in the US are those associated with overweight, obesity

By Liz Meszaros, MDLinx
Published October 10, 2017

Key Takeaways

An increased risk of 13 types of cancer are associated with overweight and obesity, and account for nearly 40% of all cancers diagnosed in the United States in 2014, according to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

In 2014, roughly 630,000 individuals in the United States were diagnosed with one of the cancers associated with overweight and obesity. Of these, 2 out of 3 occurred in adults aged 50 to 74 years old.

According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the 13 cancers associated with overweight and obesity include the following:

  • meningioma,
  • multiple myeloma,
  • adenocarcinoma of the esophagus,
  • thyroid cancer,
  • postmeopausal breast cancer,
  • gallbladder cancer,
  • stomach cancer,
  • liver cancer,
  • pancreatic cancer,
  • kidney cancer,
  • ovarian cancer,
  • uterine cancer, and
  • colorectal cancer.

Between 2005 and 2014, the rates of obesity-related cancers, with the exception of colorectal cancer, increased by 7%, compared to the rate of non-obesity related cancers, which declined. Screening for colorectal cancer has improved detection of abnormal growth in the colon and rectum before cancer develops.

“A majority of American adults weigh more than recommended – and being overweight or obese puts people at higher risk for a number of cancers – so these findings are a cause for concern,” said CDC Director Brenda Fitzgerald, MD. “By getting to and keeping a healthy weight, we all can play a role in cancer prevention.”

For the Vital Signs report, researchers from the CDC and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) used data from the United States Cancer Statistics report to analyze the incidence of cancer in 2014, as well as reviewed data from 2005 to 2014 to assess any trends for those cancers associated with overweight and obesity.

They found that 55% of all cancers diagnosed in women and 24% of those diagnosed in men are associated with overweight and obesity. In addition, non-Hispanic blacks and non-Hispanic whites had a higher incidence of these cancers compared with other racial and ethnic groups.  Black males and American Indian/Alaska Native males also had higher incidence rates compared with white males.

Between 2005 and 2014, the incidence of cancers associated with overweight and obesity increased by 7%, while colorectal cancers decreased by 23%. All cancers not associated with overweight and obesity, meanwhile, decreased by 13%.

Finally, researchers found that cancers associated with overweight and obesity, but not colorectal cancer, increased in adults aged less than 75 years.

“As an oncologist, when people ask me if there’s a cure for cancer, I say, ‘Yes, good health is the best prescription for preventing chronic diseases, including cancer,’” said Lisa C. Richardson, MD, MPH, director of CDC’s Division of Cancer Prevention and Control. “What that means to health care providers like me is helping people to have the information they need to make healthy choices where they live, work, learn, and play.”

Health care providers can take steps to help patients do this, including the following:

  • Regularly measuring patients weight, height, and BMI.
  • Counseling patients on maintaining a healthy weight and how it plays a role in cancer prevention.
  • Referring obese patient to intensive programs to help them manage their weight.
  • Connecting patients and their families with community services that will give them better access to healthy foods and ways to be active.

To read the entire Vital Signs report, visit:

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