Cancers Associated With Overweight and Obesity Make Up 40% of Cancers Diagnosed in the United States

Key Points

  • 55% of all cancers diagnosed in women and 24% of those diagnosed in men are associated with overweight and obesity.
  • Cancers associated with overweight and obesity, excluding colorectal cancer, increased 7% from 2005 to 2014. Cancers not associated with overweight and obesity decreased 13%.
  • Cancers associated with overweight and obesity, excluding colorectal cancer, increased among adults younger than age 75.

Overweight and obesity are associated with increased risk of 13 types of cancer—and these cancers account for about 40% of all cancers diagnosed in the United States in 2014—according to the latest Vital Signs report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Overall, the rate of new cancer cases has decreased since the 1990s, but increases in overweight- and obesity-related cancers are likely slowing this progress.

During 2013–2014, about 2 out of 3 adults in the United States were overweight (defined as having a body mass index [BMI] of 25–29.9 kg/m2) or had obesity (BMI of 30 kg/m2 and higher). Many people are not aware that being overweight and having obesity are associated with some cancers. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has identified 13 cancers associated with overweight and obesity: meningioma; multiple myeloma; adenocarcinoma of the esophagus; and cancers of the thyroid, postmenopausal breast, gallbladder, stomach, liver, pancreas, kidney, ovaries, uterus, and colon or rectum.  

About 630,000 people in the United States were diagnosed with a cancer associated with overweight and obesity in 2014. About 2 in 3 occurred in adults between 50 to 74 years old. The rates of obesity-related cancers (not including colorectal cancer) increased by 7% between 2005 and 2014. The rates of non–obesity-related cancers declined during that time.

“A majority of American adults weigh more than recommended—and being overweight or obese puts people at higher risk for a number of cancers—so these findings are a cause for concern,” said CDC Director Brenda Fitzgerald, MD. “By getting to and keeping a healthy weight, we all can play a role in cancer prevention.”

Vital Signs

The Vital Signs report, by CDC and National Cancer Institute researchers, analyzed 2014 cancer incidence data from the U.S. Cancer Statistics report and reviewed data from 2005 to 2014 to determine trends for cancers associated with overweight and obesity.

 Key findings included:

  • 55% of all cancers diagnosed in women and 24% of those diagnosed in men are associated with overweight and obesity.
  • Non-Hispanic blacks and non-Hispanic whites had higher cancer incidence rates compared with other racial and ethnic groups. Black males and American Indian/Alaska Native males had higher incidence rates than white males.
  • Cancers associated with overweight and obesity, excluding colorectal cancer, increased 7% between 2005 and 2014. Colorectal cancer decreased 23%, due in large part to screening. Cancers not associated with overweight and obesity decreased 13%.
  • Cancers associated with overweight and obesity, excluding colorectal cancer, increased among adults younger than age 75.

“As an oncologist, when people ask me if there’s a cure for cancer, I say, ‘Yes, good health is the best prescription for preventing chronic diseases, including cancer,’” said Lisa C. Richardson, MD, MPH, Director of the CDC’s Division of Cancer Prevention and Control. “What that means to health-care providers like me is helping people to have the information they need to make healthy choices where they live, work, learn, and play.”

The content in this post has not been reviewed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Inc. (ASCO®) and does not necessarily reflect the ideas and opinions of ASCO®.


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