12% of all pancreatic cancer cases are attributable to being overweight

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This week Cancer Research UK warned that obesity now causes more cases of some cancers (bowel, kidney, ovarian and liver cancer) than cigarettes.

Whilst smoking rates are decreasing, obesity rates are seen to be increasing. Cancer Research UK revealed the below case study results:

  • Bowel – Of around 42,000 new cases, being overweight or obese causes 4,800 of these cases and smoking causes 2,900.
  • Kidney – Of around 12,900 cases; being overweight or obese causes 2,900 cases, and smoking causes 1,600.
  • Liver – Of around 5,900 cases; being overweight or obese causes 1,300 cases, and smoking causes 1,200.
  • Ovarian – Of around 7,500 in total; being overweight or obese causes 490 cases, and smoking causes 25.

Being overweight or obese significantly increases the risk of developing 5-8 various cancers. Furthermore, The World Health Organisation (WHO) noted, that overweight and obesity are the most important, known, avoidable causes of cancer after tobacco.

Obesity is a preventable cause of cancer. Extra fat in the body can have harmful effects such as producing hormones and growth factors that affect the way our cells work. This can increase the risk of several diseases, including cancer. More than 1 in 20 cancer cases in the UK are linked to being overweight or obese. The latest statistics for England show that around 60% of adults are overweight or obese.

A report by Cancer Research UK and the UK Health Forum, predicts three in four adults will be overweight or obese by 2035 if current trends continue. This could lead to an extra 670,000 cases of cancer in the UK over the next twenty years.


Obesity and pancreatic cancer

Obesity is considered a risk factor for many diseases, including pancreatic cancer. A study in 2011 estimated that around 12 per cent of all pancreatic cancers in the UK are attributable to being overweight or having obesity. Another study in 2008 found that obese women who carry most of their excess weight around their waist rather than their hips are “seventy per cent more likely to develop pancreatic cancer”.

In addition to obesity, there are several other risk factors associated with pancreatic cancer, including: smoking; diabetes and chronic pancreatitis. You can find out more about the risk factors of pancreatic cancer here.


How can I reduce my risk?

According to Cancer Research UK, losing weight can reduce the risk of cancer. If you are overweight, you can reduce your risk by avoiding gaining more weight.

All the research carried out so far suggests that an increased risk can start to fall with weight loss. The best way to lose weight for most people is by eating and drinking healthily and exercising regularly.

You can check if you are a healthy weight by calculating your own BMI.