- Excess body weight currently accounts for
approximately four percent of all cancers worldwide
- Various factors are responsible for the rise in
body weight, including public policies, economic reforms, and marketing
- Reducing excess body weight could significantly
decrease the incidence of cancer
Excess body weight is
increasingly becoming a huge problem worldwide, according to a new study. This
has been fuelled by a wide variety of factors, including public policies,
economic reforms and marketing strategies. These promote the consumption of
energy-rich but nutrient-deficient food, which lead to behavioral changes that
encourage high food consumption without adequate physical activity. Moreover,
the built environment is generally not conducive to physical activity.
The study has been
published online in CA: A Cancer Journal
, which is a journal of the American Cancer Society. The
paper has been authored by researchers from the American Cancer Society, the
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, USA and Imperial College, London,
UK. The lead author of the paper is Dr. Hyuna Sung, PhD of the American Cancer
‘Excess body weight accounts for approximately four percent of cancer cases worldwide. Various factors impact the incidence of excess body weight, including public policy, economic reforms, and marketing strategies. If the rise in body weight remains unchecked, it could increase the number of cancer cases in the future.’
The study presents
regional and global trends in the prevalence of excess body weight, the key
factors driving the epidemic, its link with cancer, and suggests policies that
could bring about a change. It indicates that excessive body
accounted for approximately 3.9 percent of cancers globally in
2012. If this trend continues, it has been predicted that the numbers could
significantly increase in the coming decades.
What is the Prevalence of Excess Body Weight?
The prevalence of
excess body weight has been on the rise worldwide since the 1970s. In 2016, the
global prevalence of excess body weight was 40 percent in adults and 18 percent
in children within the age-group of 5-19 years. These figures translate to
approximately 2 billion adults and 340 million children with excess body weight
the prevalence of excess body weight has increased throughout the world, it has
been particularly high in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), possibly
due to exposure to the 'Western Lifestyle', which encourages the consumption of
high-energy and low-nutrient foods, accompanied by reduced physical
What is the Impact of Excess Body Weight on
In 2015, excess body weight
accounted for approximately 4 million deaths worldwide. The cost involved in
the treatment and management of excess body weight globally has been estimated
to be a staggering USD 2 trillion!
cancer cases were caused by excess body weight in 2012. This figure accounts
for 3.9 percent of all cancer cases worldwide. The proportion of cancer cases
varies from place to place. For example, it is less than one percent in LMICs,
while in some high-income Western countries, in the Middle East and in the
countries of Northern Africa, it varies between 7-8 percent.
It has been found
that 13 cancers have been linked to excess body weight and obesity.
These include cancers of the: (i)
breast (postmenopausal), (ii) stomach (cardia), (iii) liver, (iv) kidney, (v)
pancreas, (vi) ovary, (vii) uterus (corpus uteri), (viii) esophagus
(adenocarcinoma), (ix) colon and rectum (colorectal), (x) gallbladder, (xi)
thyroid, (xii) meningioma (cancer of the meninges that cover the brain), (xiii) multiple
(a type of blood cancer). Moreover, recent studies have
indicated that excess body weight could also cause cancers of the prostate,
larynx, mouth, and pharynx.
What are the Economic Drivers of Excess Body
important economic driver of excess body weight is an increase in national
wealth. There is a tendency that a wealthier and more robust economy is
conducive to increases in body weight and obesity. Statistics show that every
USD 10,000 increase in national income, translates into 0.4 units rise in body mass
index (BMI) in the adult population.
Having said this, it is not
always true that increased affluence means a rise in body weight.
For example, in
some high-income countries of the Asia-Pacific region, such as Japan and South
Korea, excess body weight and obesity are quite low (4-7%). This could stem
from the fact that the dietary habits in these countries have remained
predominantly traditional which are low in calories and high in nutrients.
Moreover, in these countries walking
is an integral part of daily
On the other
hand, the prevalence of excess body weight is much higher in some of the
low-income Pacific Island countries (40-65%), as well as in Egypt,
the prevalence is 43 percent in case of women and 24 percent in case of
What Role Can the World Health Organization
One of the nine
2025 targets chalked-out by WHO is to halt the rise in obesity. It also aims to
address the issue of the increasing global burden of
such as cancer. Given the current progress
in global healthcare, achieving these goals seems to be far-fetched and rather
ambitious. However, the WHO is optimistic that with the collective and
coordinated efforts among governments, industries and civil society, it would
be possible to implement public policies that address pressing issues such as
stopping the production, distribution and sale of unhealthy food products.
Coupled to this, there should also be changes in the human-built environment so
as to promote physical activity among the population.
What Strategies Could Prevent Excess Body
- Legislation to ban trans-fats in foods
- Taxation on sugary beverages
- Subsidizing fruits and vegetables
- Reducing portion and package size of food items
- Improved urban planning/design which should
provide: (i) optimal residential density, (ii) interlinked footpaths,
(iii) accessibility to a variety of destinations, (iv) access to public
transport, (v) access to quality open public places, (vi) infrastructure
for walking and cycling
Expert Opinion"There is emerging consensus on opportunities for obesity control
through the multisectoral coordinated implementation of core policy actions to
promote an environment conducive to a healthy diet and active living,"
the authors write. "The rapid
increase in both the prevalence of excess body weight and the associated cancer
burden highlights the need for a rejuvenated focus on identifying,
implementing, and evaluating interventions to prevent and control excess body
weight." References :
- Global patterns in excess body weight and the associated cancer burden - (http://dx.doi.org/10.3322/caac.21499)