Obesity is a Major Risk Factor for Cancer in Asia-Pacific Populations

Overweight and obesity are now increasingly recognized as a major driver of cancers in the Western world. For example, recent estimates suggest that almost 1 in 3 cases of breast cancer are related to excess weight.

A new study, published last month in Lancet Oncology, by Christine Parr and colleagues from the Asia-Pacific Cohort Studies Collaboration now confirms a significant association between excess weight and cancer mortality across this region of the world.

The study includes data from over 400,000 participants from various populations from Asia and from Australia and New Zealand (ANZ).

Compared to individuals with normal weight, a BMI of over 30 was associated with a 1.21-fold increased risk for for all-cause cancer (excluding lung and upper aerodigestive tract), 1.50-fold increased risk for colon cancer, 1.68-fold higher risk for rectum cancer, 1.63-fold higher risk for breast cancer in women 60 years or older, 2.62-fold higher risk for ovary cancer, 4.21-fold higher risk for for cervix cancer, 1.45-fold higher risk for prostate cancer, and 1.66-fold higher risk for for leukaemia.

In contrast, excess weight did not appear to be associated with cancers of the oropharynx and larynx.

Given the recent dramatic rise in the prevalence of overweight and obesity in the Asia-Pacific region, home to a considerable proportion of the world population, it can only be expected that cancer mortality will likely place a significant health burden in this region of the world.

In light of the accumulating evidence that weight management and intentional weight loss can significantly reduce cancer mortality, this study calls for increased measures to both prevent and treat obesity in Asia-Pacific countries.

Edmonton, Alberta

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Parr CL, Batty GD, Lam TH, Barzi F, Fang X, Ho SC, Jee SH, Ansary-Moghaddam A, Jamrozik K, Ueshima H, Woodward M, Huxley RR, & on behalf of the Asia-Pacific Cohort Studies Collaboration (2010). Body-mass index and cancer mortality in the Asia-Pacific Cohort Studies Collaboration: pooled analyses of 424 519 participants. The lancet oncology, 11 (8), 741-752 PMID: 20594911