TUESDAY, March 17, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Obesity takes a huge toll on health, and a new British study finds that obese women have a 40 percent higher risk for cancer than thinner women.
Overall, the Cancer Research UK study found that obese women have about a one in four risk of developing a weight-related cancer in their lifetime. Those include cancers of the bowel, gallbladder, uterus, kidney, pancreas and esophagus, as well as post-menopausal breast cancers.
Among obese British women, 274 in every 1,000 will develop a weight-associated cancer in their lifetime, compared with 194 in 1,000 healthy weight women, the study found.
There are a number of possible ways that obesity can increase cancer risk in women, including one that's linked to fat cells' production of hormones, especially estrogen, which is believed to fuel cancer development, according to Cancer Research UK.
However, everyone can lower their risk by trimming their waistline, one expert said.
"Lifestyle changes -- like not smoking, keeping a healthy weight, eating a healthy diet and cutting back on alcohol -- are the big opportunities for us all to personally reduce our cancer risk," Dr. Julie Sharp, head of health information at Cancer Research UK, said in a news release from the organization.
"Making these changes is not a guarantee against cancer, but it stacks the odds in our favor," she added.
"Losing weight isn't easy, but you don't have to join a gym and run miles every day or give up your favorite food forever," she said. "Just making small changes that you can maintain in the long term can have a real impact."
Some of those small changes: "Try getting off the bus a stop earlier and cutting down on fatty and sugary foods," Sharp said. "Losing weight takes time, so gradually build on these to achieve a healthier lifestyle that you can maintain. And find out about local services, which can provide help and support to make lifestyle changes over the long term," she suggested.
"We know that our cancer risk depends on a combination of our genes, our environment and other aspects of our lives, many of which we can control," Sharp said.
The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about obesity and cancer risk.