By Stacy Simon, Senior News Editor, American Cancer Society
This is an excerpt from an article originally published on cancer.org December 5, 2014.
An international team of researchers estimates that 481,000 new cancer cases each year (3.6%) are likely caused by overweight or obesity, defined as having a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or higher. Almost ⅔ of the cancer cases related to weight are in North America and Europe.
The study analyzed data from countries and regions worldwide to calculate the percentage of cancer cases that could be attributed to high BMI in 2012. The study was published November 25, 2014 in The Lancet Oncology.
Differences around the world
Excess weight is associated with more cancers in developed countries than in developing countries. The study found that in 2012, the highest number of weight-related cancers was in North America, with 111,000, almost ¼ (25%) of the worldwide total. The lowest number was in sub-Saharan Africa, with 7,300 cases, about 1.5% of the worldwide total.
The researchers estimate 118,000 cases of cancer, or about ¼ of all weight-related cancers, could have been avoided if the worldwide average BMI in 2012 had stayed the same as it was in 1982.
Lead researcher Melina Arnold, PhD, said in a statement, “Our findings add support for a global effort to address the rising trends in obesity. The global prevalence of obesity in adults has doubled since 1980. If this trend continues, it will certainly boost the future burden of cancer, particularly in South America and North Africa, where the largest increases in the rate of obesity have been seen over the last 30 years.”
Explore this topic in the Cancer Atlas:
- Physical activity and dietary factors can increase or decrease cancer risk
- As countries develop, their cancer burden changes in scale and type
- Get data on overweight prevalence worldwide