Obesity-related cancer rates quadruple since 1980s

obesity can cause cancer

The number of obesity-related cancers has almost quadrupled in the past three decades, according to research from The Daffodil Centre.

In a study, The Daffodil Centre – a joint venture between the Cancer Council and the University of Sydney – analysed rates of 10 different cancers that were heavily associated with obesity between 1983 and 2017.

The cancers were colorectal (bowel), liver, gallbladder, pancreatic, uterine, ovarian, kidney, thyroid, postmenopausal breast cancer and myeloma. According to the World Health Organization, all have a strong link to being overweight.

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The Daffodil Centre found incidence rates of these cancers increased fourfold between 1983 and 2017, whereas rates of cancers not related to obesity remained stable.

“In total, more than one million cases of cancer types that have an established association with obesity were diagnosed over the 35-year period,” says Dr Eleonora Feletto, lead author of the study.

“The extent to which obesity directly causes these cancers varies. A pattern has emerged across all 10, showing that cancers related to obesity are increasing in incidence at a faster rate than those that are not obesity related.”

The analysis foreshadows a growing public health crisis related to obesity.

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Around 67 per cent of Australian adults – or about 12.5 million – could be classed as ‘overweight’ or ‘obese’. If current trends continue, there will be more than 18 million overweight Australians by 2030.

The study also revealed obesity-related cancer rates grew even more sharply for those born after 1960 – as did rates of obesity in general.

Clare Hughes, nutrition program manager for the Cancer Council, says the types of foods we’re eating has changed significantly since the 1980s – and not for the better.

“Recent decades have seen changes in food supply, eating patterns, a rise in convenience and ultra-processed foods, overconsumption and inactive lifestyles – all of which create an environment that leads to increased body mass and poor health,” she says.

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“With our research showing that the results of the obesity epidemic are leading to escalating preventable cancer incidence, governments need to take strong action to support improved nutrition and physical activity.”

Lowering obesity levels is not a simple task, as obesity is a very complex health condition. More than simply eating too much food, obesity is influenced by social, environmental and economic factors.

Earlier this year, the federal government launched the National Obesity Strategy, a nationwide approach to tackling the country’s weight problem. The guide aims to help Australians make more informed lifestyle choices and avoid becoming overweight.

In light of the study’s results, the Cancer Council is calling on all state and federal governments to implement the recommendations of the strategy as a matter of priority.

Would you consider yourself overweight? Do you have a family history of obesity-related cancers? Let us know in the comments section below.

Written by Brad Lockyer

Brad has deep knowledge of retirement income, including Age Pension and other government entitlements, as well as health, money and lifestyle issues facing older Australians. Keen interests in current affairs, politics, sport and entertainment. Digital media professional with more than 10 years experience in the industry.

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