Obesity Linked to Ovarian Cancer


Another cancer has been linked to carrying excess body weight. Ovarian cancer now joins the list of cancers whose risk is increased if someone has excess fat on their physique. New analysis has linked obesity to a heightened risk for developing ovarian cancer.

Being overweight increases women’s chances of getting ovarian cancer, according to global research conducted by the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) and the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF). Now, ovarian cancer, the United States’ most deadly gynecological cancer, joins the growing list of health problems whose likelihood is increased by carrying extra weight.

Heart disease and diabetes have long been associated with obesity, but the number of cancers whose risk is increased by carrying excess body fat is growing. That list now includes breast cancer (specifically after menopause), esophageal cancer, kidney cancer, colorectal cancer, endometrial cancer, gallbladder cancer and pancreatic cancer, or approximately 585,600 instances of the eight cancers tied to diet are diagnosed each year in the U.S. The AICR estimates that maintaining a healthy weight could prevent approximately 120,900 (one out of five) cancer cases.

The findings, published in Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity and the Prevention of Ovarian Cancer, used data from 128 studies that contained information on diet, weight and activity to look for potential links to ovarian cancer. The 25 studies that focused on weight included health information on 4 million women, 16,000 of whom had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer. When looking at the information on the woman with ovarian cancer compared with those who did not have it, the researchers found a 6 percent greater risk of developing ovarian cancer for every 5-point increase in a woman’s BMI. BMI is commonly used as a measure of fatness, with a BMI of 25 to 30 being considered overweight and a BMI over 30 is considered obese. So, a woman who has a BMI of 30 has a 6 percent higher risk for ovarian cancer as a woman with a BMI of 25.

Approximately 65 percent of women in the US are overweight , which makes them a greater cancer risk according to several recent studies. The study that linked obesity to ovarian cancer is further evidence that diet (and ultimately) weight has a tremendous impact.

There are various theories why fat raises cancer risks. One is that fat cells product hormones that may affect cell growth and fuel cancer cell growth particularly. It could also be the specific diets of overweight woman, but no concrete evidence has been found as yet.

Ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer death in the U.S., with approximately 22,400 cases diagnosed and 14,000 women succumbing annually. Ovarian cancer has such a high death rate because it does not always present symptoms until it has spread too far. The survival rate is low, with only 43 percent of patients surviving at least five years.

One of the panelists who authored the new report, Elisa V. Bandera, M.D., PhD, an Associate Professor of Epidemiology, noted that their finding as important because so little is known about ovarian cancer prevention. Bandera, who works at the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, pointed out that doctors can at least emphasize to women that obesity has been liked to ovarian and other forms of cancer, so maintaining a healthy weight is an important way to protect themselves.

By Dyanne Weiss


American Institute for Cancer Research

Medical News Today

USA Today


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