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‘Obesity puts you at greater risk of cancer’

Around 5.24 million people were identified at 16 years or more and followed for an average of 7.5 years.

Written by Abantika Ghosh | New Delhi | Published: August 21, 2014 1:33:36 am

Being overweight and obese put people at a greater risk of developing 10 of the most common cancers, according to UK study — published in medical journal The Lancet —that involved 5 million adults, the largest of its kind so far.

The study estimated that 12,000 cases of these 10 cancers (uterus, gall bladder, kidney, cervix, thyroid, liver, colon, ovary, breast and leukaemia) are attributable to being obese (BMI of 30 kg/m square or higher) or overweight (BMI between 25 and 29.9 kg/m square). BMI is calculated as the ratio of a person’s weight by height squared. It was a research on body mass index (BMI) and cancer conducted by experts from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and the Farr Institute of Health Informatics.

As a step towards crackdown on food products contributing to obesity/metabolic syndrome, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in his Budget speech had announced an additional 5 per cent levy on sweetened fizzy drinks. Many western countries already tax sugar-sweetened beverages due to health-related factors, but this is the first study that links obesity to cancers. However, more validations will be needed as also population specific studies in India to extrapolate the findings in this country.

“It is well-recognised that this is likely to cause more diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Our results show that if these trends continue, we can also expect to see substantially more cancers as a result,” said study leader Dr Krishnan Bhaskaran. from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, London. The study used data from clinical practitioners’ records. 

Around 5.24 million people were identified at 16 years or more and followed for an average of 7.5 years. A total of 16,6955 people developed one of the 22 cancers studied over the period. BMI was associated with 17 out of the 22 types of cancer after making adjustments for age, sex, smoking and socio-economic status.

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