Where Body Fat is Carried Can Predict Cancer Risk in Overweight Adults

BY Courtney Huckabay

Scientists have found that carrying fat around your middle could be as good an indicator of cancer risk as body mass index, according to research published in the British Journal of Cancer. It shows that adding approximately 11cm to the waistline increased the risk of obesity related cancers by 13 percent.

For bowel cancer, adding around 8 cm to the hips is linked to an increased risk of 15 percent.

Trainers and nutritionists can highlight that losing weight also leads to less risk of cancer in advertising campaigns. The new AudienceSCAN survey reported 26% of Americans described themselves as more than 20 pounds overweight.

Carrying excess body fat can change the levels of sex hormones, such as estrogen and testosterone, can cause levels of insulin to rise, and lead to inflammation, all of which are factors that have been associated with increased cancer risk.

This is the first study comparing adult body measurements in such a standardized way for obesity-​related cancers.

Using a novel approach, scientists at the International Agency for Research on Cancer showed that three different measurements of body size, BMI, waist circumference, and waist to hip ratio all predicted similar obesity-​related cancer risk in older adults.

The study combined data from around 43,000 participants who had been followed for an average of 12 years and more than 1,600 people were diagnosed with an obesity-​related cancer.

Dr Heinz Freisling, lead study author and scientist at the International Agency for Research on Cancer, said: "Our findings show that both BMI and where body fat is carried on the body can be good indicators of obesity-​related cancer risk. Specifically, fat carried around the waist may be important for certain cancers, but requires further investigation."

Health care professionals can reach Overweight Adults through advertising campaigns about losing weight to prevent cancer. The new AudienceSCAN survey found 61% of Overweight Adults took action after watching commercials on TV in the past year.

"To better reflect the underlying biology at play, we think it's important to study more than just BMI when looking at cancer risk. And our research adds further understanding to how people's body shape could increase their risk."

Being overweight or obese is the single biggest preventable cause of cancer after smoking and is linked to 13 types of cancer including bowel, breast, and pancreatic.

Weight-​loss centers can quote that stat in marketing campaigns. Direct mail can be effective in reaching Overweight Adults. The new AudienceSCAN study revealed 36.5% of Overweight Adults took action after receiving ads/​coupons in their mailboxes in the past month.

Dr Julie Sharp, Cancer Research UK's head of health information, said: "This study further highlights that however you measure it being overweight or obese can increase the risk of developing certain cancers, including breast and bowel."

"It's important that people are informed about ways to reduce their risk of cancer. And while there are no guarantees against the disease, keeping a healthy weight can help you stack the odds in your favor and has lots of other benefits too. Making small changes in eating, drinking and keeping physically active that you can stick with in the long term can help you get to a healthy weight — and stay there."

AudienceSCAN data is available as part of a subscription to AdMall for Agencies, or with the SalesFuel API. Media companies can access AudienceSCAN data through the AudienceSCAN Reports in AdMall.