Excess body weight caused about 481,000 new cancer cases in 2012, according to a new study by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, an arm of the World Health Organization.
That works out to about 3.6 per cent of all cancers worldwide, the majority of which occur in North America and Europe, according to the study published in the medical journal Lancet Oncology on Wednesday.
Scientists hypothesize that excess body fat may trigger cancer by changing insulin, glucose and hormone levels, and increasing chronic inflammation.
Dr. Darren Brenner, who works with Alberta Health Services and is not linked to the Lancet Oncology-published study, said 3.6 per cent doesn’t sound like much, but it is significant.
“In Canada, that works out to be about 6,000 cancer cases per year that are attributable to excess body weight. So when we think about it in those absolute terms, I think it’s very very important that people take these results seriously,” said Brenner, who’s also studied the link between obesity and cancer.
“A general recommendation of the World Health Organization is to assure a healthy diet, a balanced diet, and also to engage in regular physical activity … to maintain a healthy body weight,” said Arnold.