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A recent study published in the British Journal of Cancer found that for each 11cm increase in waist circumference the risk of getting one of ten types of obesity-related cancers (such as kidney, colorectal or liver cancer) increased by 13%. This study used data from several European studies, and included more than 43,000 adults aged around 63, who were followed for up to 12 years. These findings are in line with other research, which also demonstrates a link between excess weight and an increased risk of certain cancers.
The study was reported by The Daily Mail, The Times, The Telegraph and The Guardian. However, while the media generally reported the story accurately it did not put the increased risk of cancers in context with the baseline risk for each particular cancer.
NHS Choices has examined the headlines suggesting that an expanding waistline is linked to an increased risk of cancer. Though the percentage increases sound large, it’s important to put these results into context. For example, the baseline risk of postmenopausal cancer was 2.2% (it occurred in 555 of the 24,751 women in the study). For women who hadn’t used hormone therapy, this would increase to a risk of 2.7% if they had a BMI of 30 compared with 26, or a waist circumference of 95cm compared with 84cm. This is only an extra 5 cases in every 1,000 women compared to the baseline risk.
Read the NHS Choices article here. Read the original publication in the British Journal of Cancer and the Mail Online article here.