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    From the NCI: The Emerging Evidence about the Role of Obesity in Cancer

    01.3.12

    We wanted to share with you a recent commentary published in the the National Cancer Institute Bulletin about the role of obesity in cancer. There is worldwide concern about the consequences of obesity. According to the World Health Organization the rate of obesity has more than doubled since the 1980s. In the Unites States, the 2007–2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey results showed that 34.2 percent of adults 20 years of age or older are overweight, 33.8 percent are obese, and 5.7 percent are extremely obese. This numbers are very alarming if we compare them with the results of the survey of 1988–1994 that showed only 22.9 percent of adults were obese.

    The author of this bulletin Dr. Rachel Ballard-Barbash, expresses that despite of decades of research indicating a strong association between obesity and cancer incidence and prognosis, only recently obesity's contribution to cancer has been widely recognized. We all know and it's well established the direct link of obesity with more common chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, asthma, and arthritis.

    Research done during the 1970s showed that a higher Body Mass Index (BMI)  increased the risk of breast cancer. Extensive research done since then at the basic, clinical, and population levels by investigators from around the world has also shown that obesity is associated with an increased risk of cancers of the endometrium, postmenopausal breast, gastrointestinal tract (colon, pancreas, adenocarcinoma of the esophagus, and gallbladder), kidney, and thyroid, as well as aggressive forms of prostate cancer. Adult weight gain and increased amounts of abdominal body fat are directly linked with an increased risk of many kinds of cancers.

    "A recent NIH research initiative, based on simulation modeling, estimated the public health and economic consequences of the continued rise in obesity among the aging populations of the United States and the United Kingdom. The researchers found that, by 2030, 65 million more U.S. residents will be obese, and that this increase will carry associated costs of $48 to $66 billion per year for treating obesity-related diseases. Clearly, the costs of obesity are substantial and increasing rapidly."

    It is important to understand that there is strong evidence showing how difficult it is to reverse obesity once it occurs. A lot of research is focused on obesity prevention in children, families, and the communities in which the interact. Any efforts to prevent obesity are extremely important because they may also help reduce cancer mortality in the United States.

    Measuring Obesity

    To measure obesity, researchers commonly use a scale known as the body mass index (BMI). BMI is calculated by dividing a person's weight in kilograms by his or her height in meters squared. BMI provides a more accurate measure of obesity than weight alone.

    National Institute of Health guidelines place adults 20 years of age and older into the following categories based on their BMI:

    BMI Category

    Below 18.5

    underweight

    18.5 to 24.9 healthy
    25.0 to 29.9 overweight
    30.0 and above obese

    For children and adolescents under 20 years of age, the definitions of overweight and obesity are based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's BMI-for-age growth charts.

     

    Full Commentary