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Being overweight ups risk of colon cancer


6 July, 2007  

For men, the risk of colon cancer increases with body weight in a nearly linear manner, a study shows. For women, the risk is more variable but still trends upward, particularly for those younger than age 67.

The findings highlight the importance of weight control for colon cancer prevention, Dr Kenneth F Adams, of the National Institutes of Health in Rockville, Maryland, and colleagues conclude in a report in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

They examined the association between body mass index (BMI) and colorectal cancer incidence in 307,708 men and 209,436 women enrolled in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study.

The men and women were followed from 1995 to 2000. During that time, a total of 2,314 men and 1,029 women developed colorectal cancer. An association was observed between BMI and an increased risk of colon cancer, but not rectal cancer, for both men and women.

For example, men who were overweight with a BMI of 25 to less than 27.5 had a 22% increased risk of developing colon cancer, compared with men of normal weight. Overweight men with a BMI of 27.5 to less than 30 had a 44% increased risk of colon cancer.

For women, being overweight with a BMI of 25 to less than 27.5 was associated with a 29% increased risk of colon cancer. Overweight women with a BMI of 27.5 to less than 30 had a 31% increased risk of developing colon cancer.

“Age did not significantly modify the BMI/colon cancer association for men,” Adams and colleagues report. “By contrast, colon cancer was associated with BMI in women aged 50 to 62 and 63 to 66 years, but not in those aged 67 to 71 years,” they note.

The association was not modified by hormone replacement therapy in women, or by physical activity in men or women – “indicating the importance of weight control as a prevention strategy for this very common malignancy.”

American Journal of Epidemiology July 2007.