New list of cancers linked to being overweight

“Women in particular should take note of the results,” says cancer expert.


How much you weigh is even more important than previously thought for avoiding cancer. That’s the conclusion of a new review of cancer research by a World Health Organization agency.

There was strong evidence already that five cancers are linked to excess body weight:

  • Breast cancer in postmenopausal women
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Uterine cancer
  • Kidney cancer
  • Esophageal cancer (adenocarcinoma type)

Twenty-one independent experts recently evaluated more than 1,000 new scientific studies published over the past decade and found that the evidence is now compelling enough to add eight more cancers to this list:

  • Ovarian cancer
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Stomach cancer (specifically, gastric cardia)
  • Gallbladder cancer
  • Liver cancer
  • Thyroid cancer
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Meningioma (cancer of the tissue that surrounds the brain and spinal cord)

Together, these 13 cancers account for 42 percent of all new cancer cases, according to the chairman of the scientific panel, Graham Colditz of Washington University in St. Louis.



“Women in particular should take note of the results,” Elizabeth Platz told The New York Times. Platz is a cancer epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

“The strongest association they found is with uterine cancer,” she said. Women who are obese are seven times more likely than healthy-weight women to develop uterine cancer

“And postmenopausal breast cancer is also connected to obesity, especially estrogen receptor positive cancer,” she added. These are important messages that women need to hear.”

Unfortunately, only about half of Americans know that body weight can increase the risk of developing cancer, according to a recent survey.

Although excess weight has the biggest impact on the risk of uterine and esophageal cancers, even a small increase in risk matters when it comes to cancers like breast and colon, where we already have a high risk.

Excess body fat may lead to cancer by altering sex hormones, chronic inflammation, and insulin levels, suggested the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) which conducted the review.



Scientific studies typically use Body Mass Index (BMI) to calculate someone’s weight status. A BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 is considered healthy, 25 to 29.9 overweight, and 30 or greater obese. You can find your own BMI here:


Source: IARC’s full report on weight and cancer is being prepared for publication. A summary was published in the New England Journal of Medicine: N. Engl. J. Med. 375: 794, 2016.

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