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STUDY: Maintain your ideal weight
JOURNAL: New England Journal of Medicine April
ABSTRACT: Men and women who were overweight were 52 percent and 62 percent, respectively, more likely to die of cancer than men and women of normal weight. The finding echoes the results of animal studies in which animals fed fewer calories experienced a decreased incidence of tumors and lived longer, compared to animals allowed to consume as much as they wanted.
COMMENTARY: The current investigation enrolled 404,576 men and 495,477 women who were cancer free in 1982, and followed them for 16 years. During this period, 57,145 subjects died from cancers.
The researchers, from the Department of Epidemiology and Surveillance Research at the American Cancer Society, calculated participants’ body mass index (BMI) and examined the relation to deaths from cancers at individual sites and at all sites.
The heaviest male participants, who had a body mass index of at least 40, were 52 percent likelier to die from all cancers than men whose body mass was between 18.5 to 24.9, which is considered normal.
The heaviest women experienced greater cancer mortality than the heaviest men, with a 62 percent higher risk of cancer death than normal weight women, possibly due to the greater incidence of hormonally dependent cancers that have been shown to be associated with adiposity.
Trends of increasing risk of death with greater BMI values were found for cancers of the breast, uterus, cervix and ovary in the female participants, and for cancers of the stomach and prostate in men.
The authors estimate that more 90,000 cancer deaths in the United States could be prevented yearly by normal weight maintenance in men and women.
Given the additional links between obesity and cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and other conditions, maintaining a proper weight is one life-extending measure that no one can afford to ignore.