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Several recent studies have shown that obesity increases the risk of cancer to women.

Obesity Link to Womens' Cancer Risk

By Sheila Ashwood for WLR

During the course of the Million Woman Study at Oxford University, researchers led by Dr Gillian Reeve have established a link between obese menopausal women and cancer. Results from other recent studies; American Cancer Society, World Cancer Research Fund and American Institute for Cancer Research studies, had also identified the relationship.

The Million Woman Study has been taking place over the past seven years and is the biggest ever to look at women’s cancer risk, covering approximately 1.2 million women between the ages of 50 – 64.

17 specific types of cancer are being examined and an increase was identified of 10% in obese, menopausal women. Two thirds of these 10% of cases are breast and womb cancers. The study published in the British Medical Journal, also found new evidence that excess weight increased the risk of kidney cancer, leukaemia, multiple myeloma, pancreatic cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and ovarian cancer.

Dr Gillian Reeves has said it is estimated being overweight or obese accounts for 6,000 out of a total 120,000 new cases of cancer each year among middle-aged and older women in the UK. This is something that women need to take into consideration, alongside what we know are very strong adverse effects of being overweight on diseases like diabetes and heart disease as well.

Dr Tim Key of the Cancer Research UK Epidemiology Unit said ‘Women’s risk is affected by many fixed factors - a family history of the disease, the number of children they have, the age they have their children, when they start their periods and when they stop. But obesity is something that women have a level of control over. Put simply, maintaining a healthy weight avoids extra breast cancer risk for these women.’

According to the National Cancer Institute, obesity and physical inactivity may account for 25-30% of several major cancers. There is a summary of key points regarding these issues on the National Cancer Institute website. This gives some further insights to some of the points that are raised by the research.

All of the studies are agreed that having a healthy lifestyle including maintaining a healthy BMI of 18.5 and 25 would reduce the risk of cancer.

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Useful Links

Million Women Study www.millionwomenstudy.org
Cancer Research UK www.info.cancerresearchuk.org
American Cancer Society www.cancer.org

Search made on obesity & cancer

National Cancer Institute www.cancer.gov
British Medical Journal www.bmj.com
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