Globally, over 2 billion people are overweight or suffer from obesity and obesity-related illnesses such as hypertension and cardiovascular diseases. But a new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has linked 40 percent of all cancers to being overweight or obese.

The new study combined the numbers from the United States Cancer Statistics for 2014 to assess incidence rates, and the data from 2005 to 2014 to analyze the trends. The researchers discovered that of the nearly 1.6 million cancers diagnosed in 2014, about 630,000 of them were cancers that are linked to being overweight.

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The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has associated 13 cancers with being overweight or obese. This includes cancer of the esophagus; cancers of the breast (in postmenopausal women), colon and rectum, endometrium, gallbladder, stomach, kidney, liver, ovary, pancreas, and thyroid, as well as meningioma (cancer of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord) and multiple myeloma, a cancer of the blood cells. The rates for thyroid, liver, stomach, pancreas, and kidney cancers have also risen each year.

USA's obese population has grown at an alarming rate
Increased availability, accessibility, and affordability of energy-dense foods has led to weight gain among different populations

According to the CDC, this means 4 out of every 10 cancers diagnosed each year can be linked to being overweight or obese. With one-third of the world’s population carrying excess weight, the rates of obesity are increasing rapidly. Currently, the USA has the greatest percentage of obese children and young adults, at 13%, while Egypt leads in terms of adult obesity, with almost 35%.

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Though the study doesn’t determine the exact reason for the relationship between obesity and cancer, the researchers can’t say for sure whether having too much fat actually causes cancer. But they believe that too much extra fat triggers the production of inflammatory compounds in the body, which can set the stage for cancer development. It can also increase your levels of the hormone insulin, which further increases your risk of developing cancer.

While being obese is never a good thing, it is always advised to maintain a healthy weight to protect your entire body. Graham Colditz, M.D., of the IARC Working Group, suggests that even losing as little as five percent of your body weight can help reduce your cancer risk.

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