Clinical Edge

Summaries of Must-Read Clinical Literature, Guidelines, and FDA Actions

Cancer Risk in Overweight & Obese Individuals

MMWR; ePub 2017 Oct 3; Steele, et al

Overweight and obesity are associated with increased risk of at least 13 cancers, with incidence rates in the US having increased in some age groups and states from 2005 to 2014, a recent study found. Data from the US Cancer Statistics for 2014 were used to assess incidence rates, and data from 2005 to 2014 were used to assess trends for cancers associated with overweight and obesity by sex, age, race/ethnicity, state, geographic region, and cancer site. Trends with and without colorectal cancer were analyzed. Among the findings:

  • In 2014, 631,000 persons in the US received a diagnosis of a cancer associated with overweight and obesity, or 40% of all cancers diagnosed.
  • Overweight- and obesity-related cancer incidence rates were higher among persons aged ≥50 years than younger persons, higher among females than males, and higher among non-Hispanic black and non-Hispanic white adults compared with other groups.
  • The incidence of overweight- and obesity-related cancers (excluding colorectal cancer) increased significantly among persons aged 20 to 74 years during 2005-2014, while decreasing among those aged ≥75 years.


Steele CB, Thomas CC, Henley SJ, et al. Vital Signs: Trends in incidence of cancers associated with overweight and obesity—United States, 2005–2014. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2017;66:1052–1058. doi:10.15585/mmwr.mm6639e1.


One third of adults in the US are overweight (BMI: 25.0–29.9 kg/m2) and approximately one third have obesity (BMI: ≥30 kg/m2).1 The relationship between obesity and diabetes, as well as obesity and cardiovascular disease, is well appreciated. Less appreciated is that obesity increases the risk for development of at least 13 cancers: adenocarcinoma of the esophagus; cancers of the breast (in postmenopausal women), colon and rectum, endometrium (corpus uterus), gallbladder, gastric cardia, kidney (renal cell), liver, ovary, pancreas, and thyroid; meningioma, and multiple myeloma.2 The current study shows that approximately 40% of all cancers in the US are obesity related—another reason to emphasize weight control for our patients. —Neil Skolnik, MD

  1. National Center for Health Statistics. Prevalence of overweight, obesity, and extreme obesity among adults aged 20 and over: United States, 1960–1962 through 2013–2014. Hyattsville, MD: US Department of Health and Human Services, CDC, National Center for Health Statistics; 2016. obesity_adult_13_14.htm.
  2. Lauby-Secretan B, Scoccianti C, Loomis D, Grosse Y, Bianchini F, Straif K; International Agency for Research on Cancer Handbook Working Group. Body fatness and cancer—viewpoint of the IARC Working Group. N Engl J Med. 2016;375:794–798. doi:10.1056/NEJMsr160.