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Duration of Adult Obesity Affects Cancer Risk in Women

Researchers find odds for four types of cancer rise significantly for every decade of obesity

WEDNESDAY, Aug. 17, 2016 (HealthDay News) — The longer a woman is overweight, the higher her risk of several cancers, according to a study published online Aug. 16 in PLOS Medicine.

The new findings are based on data from the Women’s Health Initiative. At the outset, researchers measured the women’s current weight and height, and asked them to recall their weight at ages 18, 35, and 50. Over the next dozen years, 6,301 women developed a type of cancer that has been linked to obesity, such as breast, ovarian, endometrial, colon, kidney, liver, or pancreatic cancer.

The researchers found that the odds of obesity-related cancers rose by 7 percent for every 10 years a woman had been overweight. In particular, every 10-year increase in adulthood overweight duration was associated with a 5 and 17 percent increase in risk of postmenopausal breast and endometrial cancer, respectively. These figures rose to 8 and 37 percent, respectively, with adjustment for intensity of overweight.

“This study showed that a longer duration of overweight and obesity is associated with an increased risk of developing several forms of cancer,” the authors write. “Furthermore, the degree of overweight experienced during adulthood seemed to play an important role in the risk of developing cancer, especially for endometrial cancer.”

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