Obesity Ups Women’s Cancer Risk 40%

Amanda Chan
·Deputy Editor

New data shows some scary statistics surrounding obesity. Photo: Getty Images/UpperCut Images

Obesity increases cancer risk by around 40 percent in women, according to new figures from Cancer Research UK.

And the list of obesity-related cancers isn’t short. The data show that obesity increases the risk of at least seven different kinds of the disease: bowel (colon) cancer, womb (uterine) cancer, post-menopausal breast cancer, gallbladder cancer, kidney cancer, esophageal cancer, and pancreatic cancer.

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Cancer Research UK released this graphic, showing the specific cancers linked with obesity in women. (Photo: Cancer Research UK)

Specifically, the data show that out of 1,000 obese women, 274 will be diagnosed with cancer — a much higher number than the 194 out of 1,000 women of normal weight who would be expected to be diagnosed with cancer. 

"We know that our cancer risk depends on a combination of our genes, our environment and other aspects of our lives, many of which we can control — helping people understand how they can reduce their risk of developing cancer in the first place remains crucial in tackling the disease,” Dr. Julie Sharp, head of health information at Cancer Research UK, said in a statement. “Lifestyle changes — like not smoking, keeping a healthy weight, eating a healthy diet and cutting back on alcohol — are the big opportunities for us all to personally reduce our cancer risk. Making these changes is not a guarantee against cancer, but it stacks the odds in our favour.”

Related: ‘Healthy Obesity’ Turns Unhealthy Over Time

Right now in the U.S., 35.1 percent of adults ages 20 and older are obese, and 69 percent of people 20 and older are overweight or obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. People who are obese also face higher medical costs — $1,429 more annually than people of normal weight. 

This is hardly the first study to show a link between obesity and cancer, particularly in women. A study published last year in the journal The Lancet looked at rates of cancer known to be linked with obesity, and found that in one year alone, 3.6 percent of new cancer cases were attributed to obesity. And the rate was higher in women than in men. 

While any number of factors can contribute to cancer risk, especially from cancer to cancer, hormones are usually a culprit. “Using animal models, we believe it’s mostly related to hormone changes [with obesity],” George Wang, a professor of human nutrition at Kansas State University who has studied obesity and cancer risk but was not involved in the new research, previously told Yahoo Health. 

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