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A new study has found that obese people are at risk for being diagnosed with more cancers than previously thought.
Those with larger body mass index (BMI) measurements have been associated with 13 different types of cancer, but a new study published in Nature Communications shows that the number of cancers connected to obesity has grown to 18. Previously, obesity was linked to breast, bowel, pancreatic, and kidney cancers, but according to the new study, being overweight is linked to a number of other common cancers too.
“This study shows that longer duration, greater degree, and younger age of onset of overweight and obesity during early adulthood are positively associated with risk of 18 cancers, including leukemia, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, and among never-smokers, head and neck, and bladder cancers which are not yet considered as obesity-related cancers in the literature,” the study’s authors wrote. “Our findings support public health strategies for cancer prevention focussing on preventing and reducing early overweight and obesity.”
The study examined more than 2.6 million Spanish adults who were 40 or younger and cancer free in 2009, The Independent reported. Those included in the study were observed for nine years and 225,396 of them were diagnosed with cancer. The study found that those who were obese in early adulthood appeared to have an increased risk of cancer, along with those who were obese for a longer period of time.
Dr. Heinz Freisling, one of the study’s co-authors, said medical professionals need to re-evaluate “the cancer burden associated with overweight and obesity, which currently is likely underestimated.”
The findings linking obesity to more cancers come as “fat acceptance” becomes more mainstream in American culture. One author, Virginia Sole-Smith, even wrote a book about de-stigmatizing obesity for children. In the book, Sole-Smith attempts to “debunk” the childhood obesity epidemic in the United States by arguing that society’s fear of fatness could be more detrimental than minors being overweight.
“The real danger to a child in a larger body is how we treat them for having that body,” she writes in “Fat Talk.”
Some elected officials have also pushed the idea that a person’s “body type” has no connection to their health. After signing a bill that prohibits discrimination on the basis of height and weight for employment, housing, and public accommodations in the city, New York City Democratic Mayor Eric Adams attempted to debunk the scientifically proven reality that body type does affect a person’s health.
“Everyone knows that I’m a person that believes in health, so when you talk about not discriminating against someone because of their body type, it’s not fighting against obesity; it’s just being fair,” the mayor said, adding, “And science has shown that body type is not a connection to if you are healthy or unhealthy. I think that’s a misnomer.”
After reading the study, Dr. Panagiota Mitrou, director of research, policy, and innovation at the World Cancer Research Fund, remarked on the importance a person’s weight plays in their overall well-being.
“Our own evidence shows that maintaining a healthy weight throughout life is one of the most important things people can do to reduce their cancer risk, and early prevention in adulthood is key,” Mitrou said.