Location of Body Fat Can Indicate Obesity-Related Cancer Risk

Where fat is carried is as strong a predictor as BMI, researchers suggest

obese man

THURSDAY, May 25, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- Both body mass index (BMI) and location of excess body fat on the body are good indicators of obesity-related cancer risk, according to a meta-analysis published online April 25 in the British Journal of Cancer.

Researchers analyzed data from 43,419 individuals who were followed for an average of 12 years. Of these individuals, 1,656 people were diagnosed with an obesity-related cancer.

The researchers found that the hazard ratios for obesity-related cancers per one standard deviation increment in BMI, waist circumference (WC), hip circumference (HC), and waist-to-hip ratio (WHR) were 1.11 (95 percent confidence interval [CI], 1.02 to 1.21), 1.13 (95 percent CI, 1.04 to 1.23), 1.09 (95 percent CI, 0.98 to 1.21), and 1.15 (95 percent CI, 1.00 to 1.32), respectively. Per one standard deviation of BMI, WC, HC, and WHR, increases in risk for colorectal cancer were 16, 21, 15, and 20 percent, respectively. For postmenopausal breast cancer, effect modification by hormone therapy use was observed (Pinteraction < 0.001). Women who never used hormone therapy showed an approximately 20 percent increased risk of obesity-related cancers per standard deviation of BMI, WC, and HC, compared to ever users.

"To better reflect the underlying biology at play, we think it's important to study more than just BMI when looking at cancer risk. And our research adds further understanding to how people's body shape could increase their risk," lead author Heinz Freisling, Ph.D., a scientist at the International Agency for Research on Cancer in Lyon, France, said in a news release from Cancer Research UK.

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