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Are obese people more likely to get cancer?

Are obese people more susceptible/likely to get certain types of cancers?
Lian Evans from London (age 25-34)

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One Response

  1. There does seem to be quite a lot of evidence that obesity increases the risk of getting some sorts of cancer in addition to increasing the risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, and diabetes. It is quite difficult to separate the effects of being overweight from other related factors such as poor diet, smoking and lack of exercise. But the evidence is still quite convincing and suggests that obesity is a significant factor in about 10% of cancers.

    For women, there is an increased risk of cancer of the breast and the lining of the womb but this seems to be an effect that only cuts in after the menopause. Avoiding weight gain – eating well and exercising sensibly – seems to decrease the chances of getting cancers of the colon, gullet, liver and kidney whether you are male or female.

    Most cancers develop as a result of several different factors. Obesity seems to be one of these factors for some – but not all – cancers. But it’s probably also true to say that no cancers are caused exclusively because someone is overweight.

    There is a huge amount of work being done on the various genetic and environmental factors that increase the risk of getting cancer. A lot of the data needed for this research is gathered by doctors and scientists who are members of the Royal College of Pathologists. The Royal College of Pathologists is holding an event entitled, Sex Drugs and Alcohol during National Science and Engineering Week. Our first National Pathology Week (3 – 9 November 2008) is taking place this year. See http://www.rcpath.org/index.asp?PageID=1526 for more details.

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