Cancer Cases Related to Excess Weight Will Triple Over Next 20 Years

A new study published today in Preventive Medicine estimates that excess body weight, including overweight and obesity is expected to become the second leading cause of preventable cancer in Canada, after tobacco over the next 20 years.

Cancer Rates Expected to Triple

The results of the new ComPARe study (Canadian Population Attributable Risk of Cancer) stemming from research conducted by the Canadian Cancer Society and a Canadian team of experts in epidemiology, biostatistics, cancer risk factors, and cancer prevention provides estimates of the number and percentage of more than 30 cancer types in Canada. 

It found that if current trends continues, it is expected that new cancer cases related to overweight or obesity will triple over the next 20 years, from the current 7,200 cases per year to 21,200 cases per year. These figures are due to overweight and obesity alone and do not include the increase number of cancer cases that are expected due to smoking, physical inactivity / sitting too much or alcohol consumption.

Excess body weight increases the risk of esophageal and endometrial cancer by about 50% and increases the risk of kidney, gallbladder, stomach and liver cancers by 20-30%.  Achieving and maintaining a healthy body weight can substantially lower the risk of these, and other cancers. The study estimates that if Canadians maintained a healthy body weight (BMI ⩽  25), that approximately 110,600 cancer cases could be prevented by the year 2042.

UPDATED (May 8, 2019 5:00 PM): It is not body weight per se that increases the risk of cancer. There are several proposed mechanisms where excess body weight may increase cancer risk, including alterations in the levels of hormones and growth factors, chronic inflammation, excess insulin and leptin. It is thought that excess insulin may help promote cancer cell growth and cause insulin resistance, which
increases the risk of colon, endometrial and kidney cancers in particular.

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