Cancer risk linked to obesity by Chinese researchers

Chinese research published recently in the International Journal of Cancer provides epidemiological evidence supporting the association between body mass index (BMI) and cancer risk.
WebMD Cancer China

Body Mass Index (BMI)

The body mass index (BMI) or Quetelet index is a value derived from the mass (weight) and height of an individual. The BMI is defined as the body mass divided by the square of the body height, and is universally expressed in units of kg/m^2, resulting from mass in kilograms and height in meters.

The BMI is an attempt to quantify the amount of tissue mass (muscle, fat, and bone) in an individual, and then categorize that person as underweight, normal weight, overweight, or obese based on that value. Commonly accepted BMI ranges are underweight: under 18.5, normal weight: 18.5 to 25, overweight: 25 to 30, obese: over 30.

People of Asian descent have different associations between BMI, percentage of body fat, and health risks than those of European descent, with a higher risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease at BMIs lower than the World Health Organization (WHO) cut-off point for overweight, 25, although the cutoff for observed risk varies among different Asian populations.

BMI and Cancer Risk

Numerous studies have previously suggested that excess body weight is associated with increased cancer risk. The recent Chinese research paper, entitled “Quantit,ative association between body mass index and the risk of cancer: A global meta‐analysis of prospective cohort studies,” contains a systematic review and comprehensive quantitative meta‐analysis of cohort studies reporting BMI and the risk of 23 cancer types, and finally provides epidemiological evidence supporting the association between BMI and cancer risk.


  • strong positive associations were observed between BMI and endometrial cancer, esophageal adenocarcinoma, and kidney cancer;
  • weaker associations were found for several other cancer types; and
  • interestingly, significant inverse associations were found between BMI and oral cavity, lung, pre-menopausal breast, and localized prostate cancers.

The strongest positive association between BMI and cancer risk was found among patients in North America.

The research was led by Professor Wang Fudi and Professor Min Junxia of Zhejiang University.

According to the WHO, about 2.2 billion people, or one-third of the world’s population, are overweight or obese, including more than 100 million children and 600 million adults.

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