Rawpixel.com/ShutterstockIf you’ve been thinking about trying to drop some pounds, you may have a better incentive than just squeezing into a pair of jeans or impressing your co-workers: According to a new study published in CA, the American Cancer Society’s journal, excess body weight is responsible for almost 4 percent of cancers around the world.
“The causal link of excess body weight to cancer risk is supported by evidence from numerous epidemiological studies,” write the study authors of an international review done in conjunction with investigators from the American Cancer Society (ACS), Imperial College London, and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The researchers analyzed cancer deaths and body weights worldwide and discovered that being overweight or obese can raise a person’s risk for more than 13 different cancers, including breast cancer, stomach cancer, thyroid cancer, colon cancer, and ovarian cancer, among others.
“Various mechanisms have been proposed to explain how body fatness affects cancer risk,” write the authors. One such mechanism describes how excess body fat induces insulin resistance, which suppresses production of insulin‐like growth factor (IGF)‐binding proteins, which in turn triggers intracellular signaling cascades that favor tumor development. “Genetically predicted higher fasting insulin levels have been associated with elevated risks for certain cancers,” the researchers note.
“The rapid increase in both the prevalence of excess body weight and the associated cancer burden highlights the need for a rejuvenated focus on identifying, implementing, and evaluating interventions to prevent and control excess body weight,” the researchers report.
While the researchers found that weight is currently associated with 3.9 percent of cancers worldwide, they predict that number will rise as the population continues to grow more obese. In 2016, approximately 40 percent of adults and 18 percent of children (ages 5-19 years) were carrying excess body weight.
Additionally, the risk varies based on location, the study showed. For example: The risk of cancer from excess weight is less than 1 percent in low-income countries, but it is as high as 7 to 8 percent in some high-income Western countries, in the Middle East, and in some Northern African countries.
In order to lower the risk, the ACS urges everyone to find their body mass index (BMI)—you can find it here. If you fall in—or are nearing—the overweight or obese category, it’s time to make some changes.
There’s added benefit to changing your lifestyle, the ACS experts say: Overweight or obese people who intentionally lose weight reduce their levels of hormones are related to cancer risk, such as insulin, estrogens, and androgens.
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