Study finds obesity link to cancer

4.4% of cancers in Malta linked to obesity - Lancet

The highest rate in Europe is found in the Czech Republic at 5.5% followed by the UK and Malta where it is 4.4%, the findings in the 'Lancet Oncology' medical journal reveal
The highest rate in Europe is found in the Czech Republic at 5.5% followed by the UK and Malta where it is 4.4%, the findings in the 'Lancet Oncology' medical journal reveal

Excess weight and obesity are linked to around 4.4% of cancers in Malta, a major international study reveals today.

Of some 900-odd cancers in Malta annually, 4.4% are caused by excess body weight.

The highest rate in Europe is found in the Czech Republic at 5.5% followed by the UK and Malta where it is 4.4%, the findings in the 'Lancet Oncology' medical journal reveal.

Read more in MaltaToday's data section

Lead researchers Dr Melina Arnold estimated that a quarter of all obesity-related cancers in 2012 were linked to the rising average body mass index (BMI) in the population since 1982, and were therefore "realistically avoidable".

The association between weight and cancer is due to various factors including the increased levels of insulin in obese people which can promote the development of some tumours. Fat cells also produce hormones that can stimulate cell growth. The study of 184 countries found weight causes about 481,000 new cancer cases a year globally in adults — or 3.6pc of cancers worldwide.

The burden is far higher in more developed countries, with almost two-thirds (64pc) of these obesity-related cancers occurring in North America and Europe.

The findings reveal that obesity-related cancer is a greater problem for women than men, largely due to disease in the womb and uterus as well as post-menopausal breast cancers.

In men, excess weight was responsible for 1.9% or 136,000 new cancers in 2012 - in women it was 5.4% or 345,000 new cases.

Post-menopausal breast, endometrial and colon cancers were responsible for almost three-quarters of the obesity-related cancer burden in women. In men, colon and kidney cancers accounted for over two-thirds of all obesity-related cancers.

"Our findings add support for a global effort to address the rising trends in obesity. The global prevalence of obesity in adults has doubled since 1980," Dr Arnold said.

"If this trend continues, it will certainly boost the future burden of cancer, particularly in South America and North Africa, where the largest increases in the rate of obesity have been seen over the last 30 years."

A separate 'Lancet' study on survival rates, the CONCORD-2 study, found that within Europe, cervical cancer survival was 60% or less in Ireland, the UK, France, Latvia, and four eastern European countries with very little improvement seen over the past 15 years.

Cancer represented almost a quarter - 23.8% - of all causes of death for people aged 65 and over in the EU28 in 2011.

More in Health