TUESDAY, Aug. 4, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- "Yo-yo dieting" does not increase cancer risk, a new study suggests.
This type of dieting, also called weight cycling, features repeated episodes of weight loss followed by weight gain. Previous research has suggested that weight cycling may trigger biological processes that could lead to cancer.
For the new study, investigators analyzed data from more than 132,000 men and women who were aged 50 to 74 when they enrolled in an American Cancer Society study in 1992. The researchers looked at how weight cycling affected overall cancer risk and the risk for 15 specific types of cancer.
Over 17 years of follow-up, more than 25,000 of the participants developed cancer. However, weight cycling was not associated with overall cancer risk or increased risk for any of the 15 types of cancer examined in the study, according to Victoria Stevens, strategic director of laboratory services at the American Cancer Society, and colleagues.
The study was published online recently in the American Journal of Epidemiology.
The findings show that people trying to lose weight should be encouraged to do so, even though they may regain the pounds they shed, the researchers said.
"For the millions of Americans struggling to lose weight, the last thing they need to worry about is that if it comes back, they might raise their risk of cancer," Stevens said in a society news release.
"This study, to our knowledge the largest and most comprehensive to date on the issue, should be reassuring. Our findings suggest that overweight and obese individuals shouldn't let fears about their ability to maintain weight loss keep them from trying to lose weight in the first place," she added.
The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute explains how to select a weight-loss program.