Obesity Spurs a Tide of Cancer in Europe

MANCHESTER – Obesity caused at least 124,000 new cancers last year in Europe, according to a new study.

The proportion of cases of new cancers were highest among women and in central European countries such as the Czech Republic, Latvia, Slovenia and Bulgaria.

“As more people stop smoking and fewer women take hormone replacement therapy, it is possible that obesity may become the biggest attributable cause of cancer in women within the next decade,” said Andrew Renehan, who led the study.

Renehan, senior lecturer in cancer studies and surgery, University of Manchester, and colleagues in Britain, The Netherlands and Switzerland, created a model to estimate the proportion of cancers that could be attributed to excess body weight in 30 European countries.

Using data from the WHO and International Agency for Research on Cancer, they estimated that in 2002 there had been over 70,000 new cases of cancer attributable to excess body mass index (BMI, height to weight ratio), out of a total of nearly 2.2 million new diagnoses across the 30 European countries.

Researchers found these numbers increased to 124,050 in 2008. “These are very conservative estimates, and it’s quite likely that the numbers are, in fact, higher,” said Renehan.

The number of new cases of obesity-related oesophageal cancer was particularly high in Britain relative to the rest of Europe. “This country accounts for 54 percent of new cases across all 30 countries,” said Renehan.

“This may be due to synergistic interactions between smoking, alcohol, excess body weight and acid reflux – and is currently an area where research is required,” Renehen said, according to a Manchester university release.

Renehen presented these findings at the 15th congress of the European Cancer Organisation and the 34th congress of the European Society for Medical Oncology.

These findings are slated for publication in the International Journal of Cancer.

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