Having a big belly is the most common sign of being overweight. This extra fat is not only unsightly but may also indicate a risk for cancer, according to new research. The more belly fat a person has, the higher their risk of cancer.
While obesity has been a known indicator of cancer and disease for some time, a new study reveals that too much fat around the waistline is as good an indicator as body mass index (BMI).
The researchers believe that both BMI and location of fat contribute to a person’s cancer risk. However, they’ve found that a person’s body shape plays a much bigger role than previously thought. It may provide a better understanding of the underlying biology that leads to cancer risk.
The study in question analyzed data collected from about 43,000 people who were followed for an average of 12 years. During this time, more than 1,600 people were diagnosed with obesity-related cancer.
The data demonstrated that having an extra 4.3 inches on the waistline increased the risk of obesity-related cancer by 13 percent. Having an extra 3.1 inches on the hips was associated with a 15 percent risk. No relation was found between cancer risk and excess fat found around the middle, however.
It is currently estimated that more than two-thirds of adults in the U.S. are overweight or obese. One in 20 has extreme obesity. This extra weight can lead to additional health concerns such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure.
“This study further highlights that however you measure it, being overweight or obese can increase the risk of developing certain cancers. It’s important that people are informed about ways to reduce their risk of cancer. And while there are no guarantees against the disease, keeping a healthy weight can help you stack the odds in your favor and has lots of other benefits, too. Making small changes in eating, drinking and keeping physically active that you can stick with in the long-term can help you get to a healthy weight — and stay there,” said Julie Sharp, Cancer Research UK’s head of health information.