Obesity-related Cancers on the Rise Worldwide

What You Need to Know: A quarter of all obesity-related cancers worldwide in 2012 were attributable to the rising average body mass index (BMI) in the population since 1982, and were therefore “realistically avoidable”.
 
The Study: Using data from a number of sources including the GLOBOCAN database of cancer incidence and mortality for 184 countries, Arnold and colleagues created a model to estimate the fraction of cancers associated with excess bodyweight in countries and regions worldwide in 2012, and the proportion that could be attributed to increasing BMI since 1982.
  • Obesity-related cancer is a greater problem for women than men, largely due to endometrial (womb/uterus) and post-menopausal breast cancers. In men, excess weight was responsible for 1.9% or 136,000 new cancers in 2012, and 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 (almost 250,000 cases), while in men colon and kidney cancers accounted for over two-thirds of all obesity-related cancers (nearly 90,000 cases).
  • In developed (very high human development index; HDI) countries, around 8% of cancers in women and 3% in men were associated with excess bodyweight, compared with just 1.5% of cancers in women and about 0.3% of cancers in men in developing countries (low HDI).
  • North America contributed by far the most cases with 111,000 cancers — equivalent to almost a quarter (23%) of all new obesity-related cancers globally — and sub-Saharan Africa contributed the least (7300 cancers or 1.5%). Within Europe, the burden was largest in eastern Europe, accounting for over a third of the total European cases due to excess BMI (66,000 cancers).

The proportion of obesity-related cancers varied widely between countries. In men, it was particularly high in the Czech Republic (5.5% of the country’s new cancer cases in 2012), Jordan and Argentina (4.5%), and in the UK and Malta (4.4%). In women, it was strikingly high in Barbados (12.7%), followed by the Czech Republic (12%) and Puerto Rico (11.6%). It was lowest in both sexes in countries within sub-Saharan Africa (less than 2% in men and below 4% in women).

The global prevalence of obesity in adults has doubled since 1980. 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.” I’m Dr. Michael Hunter.

My Take: Currently used gene signatures (including MammaPrint and OncoType DX) are associated with the probability of distant disease recurrence and are in clinical use as prognosticators. These signatures are primarily driven by genes reflecting the amount of cancer cell proliferation and the presence (or absence) or hormone receptors in the tumor. Now we have the exciting promise of adding in characteristics of the tumor microenvironment to offer better prognoses. I think this approach represents a fundamental change in how we approach cancer. I’m Dr. Michael Hunter.

The small print: The material presented herein is informational only, and is not designed to provide specific guidance for an individual. Please check with a valued health care provider with any questions or concerns. As for me, I am a Harvard- , Yale- and UPenn-educated radiation oncologist, and I practice in the Seattle, WA (USA) area. I feel genuinely privileged to be able to share with you. If you enjoyed today’s offering, please consider clicking the follow button at the bottom of this page.

 

 

Journal Reference:

  1. Melina Arnold, Nirmala Pandeya, Graham Byrnes, Andrew G Renehan, Gretchen A Stevens, Majid Ezzati, Jacques Ferlay, J Jaime Miranda, Isabelle Romieu, Rajesh Dikshit, David Forman, Isabelle Soerjomataram. Global burden of cancer attributable to high body-mass index in 2012: a population-based study. The Lancet Oncology, 2014; DOI: 10.1016/S1470-2045(14)71123-4

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