Even though the effects of overweight and obesity on diabetes, cardiovascular disease, all-cause mortality, and other health outcomes are widely known, there is less awareness that overweight, obesity, and weight gain are associated with an increased risk of certain cancers. A recent review of more than 1000 studies concluded that sufficient evidence existed to link weight gain, overweight, and obesity with 13 cancers, including adenocarcinoma of the esophagus; cancers of the gastric cardia, colon and rectum, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, corpus uteri, ovary, kidney, and thyroid; postmenopausal female breast cancer; meningioma; and multiple myeloma.1 An 18-year follow-up of almost 93?000 women in the Nurses’ Health Study revealed dose-response association of weight gain and obesity with several cancers.2
A report released on October 3, 2017, by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention assessed the incidence of the 13 cancers associated with overweight and obesity in 2014 and the trends in these cancers over the 10-year period from 2005 to 2014.3 In 2014, more than 630?000 people were diagnosed as having a cancer associated with overweight and obesity, comprising more than 55% of all cancers diagnosed among women and 24% of cancers among men. Most notable was the finding that cancers related to overweight and obesity were increasingly diagnosed among younger people.
Since the release of the landmark 1964 surgeon general’s report on the health consequences of smoking, clinicians have counseled their patients to avoid tobacco and on methods to quit and provided referrals to effective programs to reduce their risk of chronic diseases including cancer. These efforts, coupled with comprehensive public health and policy approaches to reduce tobacco use, have been effective—cigarette smoking is at an all-time low. Similar efforts are warranted to prevent excessive weight gain and treat children, adolescents, and adults who are overweight or obese. Clinician referral to intense, multicomponent behavioral intervention programs to help patients with obesity lose weight can be an important starting point in improving a patient’s health and preventing diseases associatedwith obesity. The benefits of maintaining a healthy weight throughout life include improvements in a wide variety of health outcomes, including cancer. There is emerging but very preliminary data that some of these cancer benefits may be achieved following weight loss among people with overweight or obesity.4
Greta M. Massetti, PhD1; William H. Dietz, MD, PhD2; Lisa C. Richardson, MD, MPH1
Corresponding Author: Greta M. Massetti, PhD, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 4770 Buford Hwy NE, Atlanta, GA 30341 (email@example.com).
Conflict of Interest Disclosures: All authors have completed and submitted the ICMJE Form for Disclosure of Potential Conflict of Interest. Dr Dietz reports receipt of scientific advisory board fees from Weight Watchers and consulting fees from RTI. No other disclosures were reported.
Disclaimer: The findings and conclusions in this report are those of the authors and not necessarily the official position of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
1. Lauby-Secretan B, Scoccianti C, Loomis D, Grosse Y, Bianchini F, Straif K; International Agency for Research on Cancer Handbook Working Group. Body fatness and cancer—viewpoint of the IARC Working Group. N Engl J Med. 2016;375(8):794-798. PubMed Article
2. Zheng Y, Manson JE, Yuan C, et al. Associations of weight gain from early to middle adulthood with major health outcomes later in life. JAMA. 2017;318(3):255-269. PubMed Article
3. Steele CB, Thomas CC, Henley SJ, et al. Vital Signs: Trends in Incidence of Cancers Related to Overweight and Obesity—United States, 2005-2014. October 3, 2017. www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/66/wr/mm6639e1.htm?s_cid=mm6639e1_w.
4. Byers T, Sedjo RL. Does intentional weight loss reduce cancer risk? Diabetes Obes Metab. 2011;13(12):1063-1072. PubMed Article
5. Grossman DC, Bibbins-Domingo K, Curry SJ, et al; US Preventive Services Task Force. Screening for obesity in children and adolescents: US Preventive Services Task Force recommendation statement. JAMA. 2017;317(23):2417-2426. PubMed Article
6. US Preventive Services Task Force. Final Recommendation Statement: Obesity in Adults: Screening and Management. December 2016. www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/Page/Document/RecommendationStatementFinal/obesity-in-adults-screening-and-management. Accessed September 21, 2017.
7. Batsis JA, Bynum JPW. Uptake of the centers for Medicare and Medicaid obesity benefit: 2012-2013. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2016;24(9):1983-1988. PubMed Article
8. Puhl R, Peterson JL, Luedicke J. Motivating or stigmatizing? public perceptions of weight-related language used by health providers. Int J Obes (Lond). 2013;37(4):612-619. PubMed Article
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