Global burden of cancer attributable to high body-mass index

High body-mass index (BMI; defined as 25 kg/m2 or greater) is associated with increased risk of cancer. To inform public health policy and future research, we estimated the global burden of cancer attributable to high BMI in 2012.

2 Replies

  • Thanks Shazie, you beat me to it!

    This paper was also covered on the Cancer Network:

    BMI is certainly something we can control to our benefit, though I've also seen research showing that being slightly overweight can actually be an advantage healthwise. That makes some sense if you have a chronic illness like CLL, as you have greater reserves to get you through frequent illnesses and chemotherapy. We also need to bear in mind that BMI is just one number; it doesn't differentiate between muscle and fat tissue or where body fat is being stored nor measure actual fitness. Also, do we know what the relationship is between increasing BMI and cancer risk? (The paper is paywalled so I don't know if that is covered, but I doubt it is a linear relationship.)

    From the end of the CancerNetwork article:

    'In an editorial that accompanied the research, Benjamin Cairns, PhD, from the University of Oxford, pointed out that there is research clearly supporting that BMI has a causal association with the risk of breast and endometrial cancers via hormonal pathways, making the risk modifiable.

    “This possibility is especially encouraging because these cancers also represent a substantial proportion of all adult cancers associated with high BMI,” Cairns wrote.

    However, overall Cairns implied that these results need to be put into perspective, “If 3.6% of all cancers are associated with high BMI, that is nearly half a million cancers, but this number is large mainly because the world population is large. Global health resources specifically for cancer prevention are not so large, and the resources targeted at obesity must be balanced against those for other important causes of cancer, particularly infections and tobacco use, which are each associated with much larger proportions of cases.'

    So quitting smoking and minimising your risk of having cancer causing infections will both pay better dividends, but there's no reason why you can't tackle these and your BMI at the same time!


  • Here is Medscape overview on this study...

    Then there is the obesity paradox, and the debate continues

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