Cancer and fat: New findings about the connection

News briefs

Published: May, 2017

Image: © monkeybusinessimages/Thinkstock

Carrying around extra weight is a known risk factor for developing some cancers. But exactly which kinds of cancer are associated with obesity is debated. A study published Feb. 28, 2017, in The BMJ aimed to narrow it down. European researchers combed through about 100 large reviews of observational studies that looked for links between being overweight and getting cancer.

Out of 36 kinds of cancer evaluated, the researchers found strong evidence for a link to obesity for 11—in the colon, rectum, biliary tract (liver and gallbladder), pancreas, breast, endometrium (uterine lining), ovary, kidney, and the gastric cardia (the junction of the esophagus and stomach); a certain type of esophageal cancer (adenocarcinoma); and one type of bone marrow cancer (multiple myeloma). The researchers said there may be links between obesity and other cancers, but so far the evidence is relatively weak.

We do know obesity is a cancer risk factor that you can modify, through exercise and diet. Make sure you're doing at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity activity, such as brisk walking. And if you're overweight, talk to your doctor or a dietitian about whether you need to change your eating habits.

As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.