Excess body weight causes over 124,000 new cancers a year in Europe
The study’s lead author, Dr. Andrew Renehan, told Congress on Europe’s largest cancer, ECCO 15 – ESMO 34 in Berlin, today (Thursday, 24 September): “As more people stop smoking and the number Women taking hormone replacement therapy, it is possible that obesity can be attributed the major cause of female cancer in the next decade. ”
Dr. Renehan, who is a professor in cancer studies and surgery at the University of Manchester (UK) and colleagues in the UK, Netherlands and Switzerland, launched a sophisticated model to estimate the proportion of cancers attributable excess body weight in 30 European countries. Using data from several sources, including the World Health Organization and the International Agency for Research on Cancer, it is estimated that in 2002 (the latest year for which reliable statistics on cancer incidence in Europe) has been more than 70,000 new cases of cancer attributable to excess BMI of a total of nearly 2.2 million new diagnoses in the 30 European countries.
The percentage of obesity-related cancers vary widely between countries, from 2.1% in women and 2.4% in men in Denmark, to 8.2% in women and 3.5% in men in the Republic Czech. In Germany was 4.8% in women and 3.3% in men, and in the UK was 4% in women and 3.4% in men.
Then, the researchers projected figures for 2008, taking into account what is known about changes in the distribution of BMI, the dramatic decline in the use of women from hormone replacement therapy (HRT) since 2002 after a survey which showed that it increased risk of breast cancer, and the wider use of PSA testing for prostate cancer in men.
They found that the number of cancers attributable to excess weight increased to 124,050 in 2008. In men, 3.2% of new cancer cases could be attributed to overweight / obesity in women was 8.6%. The greatest number of obesity-related cancers new era for endometrial cancer (33,421), breast cancer after menopause (27,770) and colorectal cancer (23,730). These three account for 65% of all cancers attributable to excess BMI.
“I must stress that we are not trying to be sensationalist about this,” said Dr. Renehan. “These estimates are very conservative, and it is likely that the figures are actually higher.”
The number of new cases of obesity-related esophageal cancer was particularly high in the UK in relation to the rest of Europe. “This country accounts for 54% of new cases in all 30 countries,” said Dr. Renehan. “This may be due to the synergistic interaction between smoking, alcohol, excess body weight and acid reflux – and currently is an area where research is required.”
Until 2002, when the use of HRT declined dramatically after the results of the Women’s Health Initiative Trial (USA) showed an increased risk of breast cancer in women taking HRT, Dr Renehan said masked HRT diluted the impact of obesity on the incidence of breast cancer. “In women who used HRT was not clear what proportion of breast cancers were caused by HRT or obesity. In women not taking hormone replacement therapy, the effect of obesity was much clearer. Now that there are now fewer women using HRT is much easier to see the effect of obesity on the incidence of breast cancer and endometrial cancer. Accordingly, the proportion of these cancers attributable to obesity have increased. ”
Dr Renehan said that while European countries are taking steps to tackle the obesity epidemic, this study emphasizes the urgency of the task and the magnitude of the problems caused by people getting fatter.
“The total size of the growing burden of cancer incidence should inform health policy. For example, it is clear that both relative and absolute cancer related to obesity is a major problem for women than for men. At country level, is a major problem for central European countries like the Czech Republic, which is a minor problem in France and Denmark. Similarly, obesity-related esophageal cancer appears to be a problem important and unique in the UK.
“The study also identifies priorities for research on certain types of cancer, ie endometrial, breast and colorectal cancer. In the light of an obesity epidemic has not abated, and the apparent failure of public health policies to control weight gain, there is a need to seek alternative strategies, including pharmacological approaches.
Dr. Renehan own research is trying to relate these epidemiological findings back to the biological mechanisms are at work. His research uses the observed interaction between BMI and excess cancer risk to guide the questions in the laboratory.
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