Cancers Associated With Excess Weight Make Up 40% of U.S. Cancer Cases

More than 630,000 in the U.S. affected

Overweight and obesity are associated with increased risk of 13 types of cancer that accounted for about 40% of all cancers diagnosed in the United States in 2014, according to the latest Vital Signs report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Overall, the rate of new cancer cases has decreased since the 1990s, but increases in overweight- and obesity-related cancers are likely slowing this progress.

About 630,000 people in the U.S. were diagnosed with a cancer associated with overweight and obesity in 2014. About two in three occurred in adults 50 to 74 years of age. The rates of obesity-related cancers, not including colorectal cancer, increased by 7% between 2005 and 2014. The rates of non-obesity-related cancers declined during that time.

“A majority of American adults weigh more than recommended—and being overweight or obese puts people at higher risk for a number of cancers—so these findings are a cause for concern,” said CDC Director Brenda Fitzgerald, MD. “By getting to and keeping a healthy weight, we all can play a role in cancer prevention.”

In 2013–2014, about two out of three U.S. adults were overweight (defined as having a body mass index [BMI] of 25–29.9 kg/m2) or obese (BMI of 30 kg/m2 and higher). BMI is a person’s weight (in kilograms) divided by the square of the person’s height (in meters).

Many people are not aware that being overweight or obese are associated with some cancers. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has identified 13 cancers associated with overweight and obesity: meningioma, multiple myeloma, adenocarcinoma of the esophagus, and cancers of the thyroid, postmenopausal breast, gallbladder, stomach, liver, pancreas, kidney, ovaries, uterus, and colon and rectum (colorectal).  Screening for colorectal cancer prevents new cases by finding abnormal growths in the colon and rectum before they turn into cancer.

The Vital Signs report, by CDC and National Cancer Institute (NCI) researchers, analyzed 2014 cancer incidence data from the United States Cancer Statistics report and reviewed data from 2005 to 2014 to determine trends for cancers associated with overweight and obesity. Key findings regarding cancer types associated with overweight and obesity were:

  • 55% of all cancers diagnosed in women and 24% of those diagnosed in men are associated with overweight and obesity.
  • Non-Hispanic blacks and non-Hispanic whites had higher incidence rates compared with other racial and ethnic groups. Black males and American Indian/Alaska Native males had higher incidence rates than white males.
  • Cancers associated with overweight and obesity, excluding colorectal cancer, increased 7% between 2005 and 2014.  Colorectal cancer decreased 23%, due in large part to screening. Cancers not associated with overweight and obesity decreased 13%.
  • Cancers associated with overweight and obesity, excluding colorectal cancer, increased among adults younger than 75 years of age.

“As an oncologist, when people ask me if there’s a cure for cancer, I say, ‘Yes, good health is the best prescription for preventing chronic diseases, including cancer,’” said Lisa C. Richardson, MD, MPH, director of the CDC’s Division of Cancer Prevention and Control. “What that means to health care providers like me is helping people to have the information they need to make healthy choices where they live, work, learn, and play.”

For more information about the CDC’s efforts to prevent cancer and reduce overweight and obesity, visit www.cdc.gov/cancer and www.cdc.gov/obesity. To read the entire Vital Signs report, visit www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/obesity-cancer.

Source: CDC; October 3, 2017.