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Report: Overweight women face higher risk of ovarian cancer

Wednesday March 12, 2014
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Being overweight increases women’s risk of ovarian cancer, according to a report.

The report, an analysis of global research by the American Institute for Cancer Research and World Cancer Research Fund, means ovarian cancer joins the growing list of cancers for which the risk is increased by carrying excess body fat.

That list includes post-menopausal breast cancer, colorectal cancer, endometrial cancer, esophageal cancer, kidney cancer, gallbladder cancer and pancreatic cancer. Added together, approximately 585,600 cases of these eight cancers are diagnosed in the U.S. every year. AICR estimates that being at a healthy weight could prevent one in five of these cases, or approximately 120,900 cancer cases every year.

“This is an important finding because it shows a way for women to reduce their chances of getting ovarian cancer,” Elisa V. Bandera, MD, PhD, associate professor of epidemiology at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey and a member of the expert panel that wrote the report, said in a news release.

“There is so much we don’t know about preventing ovarian cancer, but now we can tell women that keeping to a healthy weight can help protect against this deadly disease.”

This latest report from the AICR/WCRF Continuous Update Project, “Ovarian Cancer 2014 Report: Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity and the Prevention of Ovarian Cancer,” analyzed 128 population studies that investigated how diet, weight and activity link to ovarian cancer.

The 25 studies that focused on weight included 4 million women, 16,000 of whom developed ovarian cancer. The report showed a dose-response relationship: a 6% increased risk of developing ovarian cancer for every five-point increase in body mass index.

Every year in the U.S., approximately 14,000 women die from ovarian cancer. It is the fifth-leading cause of cancer death, mainly because difficulty in detection means many women are not diagnosed until the disease’s later stages.

In the U.S., approximately two-thirds of women are overweight or obese, placing them at increased risk for developing any of the eight cancers now known to be related to body weight.

“These latest findings from the Continuous Update Project offer another reminder that our weight, and our lifestyle, play an important role in cancer risk for both women and men,” Alice Bender, MS, RDN, AICR’s associate director of nutrition programs, said in the news release. “This is really an empowering message. There are no guarantees, but adding activity into your day and healthy plant foods onto your plate are steps you can take today to reduce your risk of cancer and other chronic conditions as well.”

The Continuous Update Project monitors and analyzes research on cancer prevention and draws conclusions on how lifestyle factors such as weight, diet and physical activity can reduce the risk of developing cancer. The project so far has reported on breast, colorectal, pancreatic, endometrial and ovarian cancers.

Report access: www.aicr.org/continuous-update-project/


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