November 9th, 2009

Excess Body Weight Linked with More Than 100,000 New Cancer Diagnoses Each Year in U.S.


According to estimates from the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), excess body weight may be responsible for more than 100,000 new cancer diagnoses each year in the United States.

Excess body weight is increasingly recognized as a risk factor not only for cancer development but also for worse outcomes after cancer treatment. Links have been established between excess body weight and cancers of the endometrium, esophagus, pancreas, kidney, breast (in postmenopausal women), and colorectum. There is also a probable link between excess body weight and gallbladder cancer.

Body mass index (BMI) is a commonly used (though imperfect) measure of body size. It involves a comparison of weight to height (weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared). A BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 is generally considered healthy, a BMI between 25 and 29.9 is considered overweight, and a BMI of 30 or higher is considered obese.

A report released by AICR estimated the number of cancers that could be prevented each year in the United States if everyone maintained a healthy body weight:

Cancer Estimated percentage of cases due to excess body fat1 Approximate number of cases preventable by maintaining low body fat, per year2
Esophagus 35% 5,800
Pancreas 28% 11,900
Gallbladder 21% 2,000
Colorectum 9% 13,200
Breast 17% 33,000
Endometrium 49% 20,700
Kidney 24% 13,900
TOTAL 100,500

1Percentages from AICR/WCRF’s Policy and Action for Cancer Prevention, 2009

2Calculated from total estimated incidence, Cancer Facts and Figures 2009, ACS

These results suggest that over 100,000 cancer diagnoses could be prevented each year in the United States if everyone maintained a healthy body weight. Excess body weight increases the risk of several common types of cancer.

Reference: AICR. New estimate: excess body fat alone causes over 100,000 cancers in US each year. Researchers present data linking obesity/overweight to higher cancer risk, poorer cancer survival. Available at: Accessed November 9, 2009.

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