October 03, 2017
2 min read

CDC: Obesity, overweight account for 40% of US cancer diagnoses

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Lisa C. Richardson

The 13 cancers associated with overweight and obesity accounted for about 40% of cancer diagnoses in the United States in 2014, according to data from the CDC published in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Further, incidence rates of all overweight- and obesity-related cancers have increased, apart from colorectal cancer.

“A majority of American adults weigh more than recommended — and being overweight or obese puts people at high risk for a number of cancers — so these findings are a cause for concern,” Brenda Fitzgerald, MD, CDC director, said in a press release. “By getting to and keeping a healthy weight, we all can play a role in cancer prevention.”

The 13 cancers associated with overweight and obesity include adenocarcinoma of the esophagus; cancers of the breast in postmenopausal women, colon and rectum, endometrium, gallbladder, gastric cardia, kidney, liver, ovary, pancreas and thyroid; meningioma and multiple myeloma.

Researchers at the CDC used data from the United States Cancer Statistics for 2014 to assess incidence rates of these 13 cancers, as well as data from 2005 to 2015 to evaluate trends in these cancers by sex, age, race/ethnicity, state, geographic region and cancer site.

In 2014, approximately 631,604 U.S. adults received diagnoses of one of these 13 cancers, which represented 40% of the 1.6 million cancers diagnosed that year. About two-thirds of these cancers occurred in adults aged 50 to 74 years, and they represented 55% of cancers diagnosed in women and 24% of cancers diagnosed in men.

Incidence of overweight- and obesity-related cancers appeared greater among adults aged 50 years or older, women — driven by incidence of endometrial, ovarian and breast cancers — among non-Hispanic black and white individuals, and in the Northeast.

From 2005 to 2014, researchers observed a 2% decline in incidence of obesity- and overweight-related cancers, a 23% decline in colorectal cancer, and a 13% decline in cancers unrelated to overweight and obesity. However, after excluding colorectal cancer incidence — which has declined due to increased use of screening tests — researchers observed a 7% increase in overall incidence of overweight- and obesity-related cancers.

Trends in incidence from 2005 to 2014 varied by age group. All overweight- and obesity-related cancers increased significantly among those aged 20 to 49 years and 50 to 64 years, but decreased among those aged 65 to 74 years and 75 years or older. Colorectal cancer declined in all age groups except for those aged 20 to 49 years.


The CDC recommends clinicians counsel patients on maintaining a healthy weight, connect patients and families to community healthy food and activity services, and refer patients with obesity to intensive programs.

“As an oncologist, when people ask me if there’s a cure for cancer, I say, ‘Yes, good health is the best prescription for preventing chronic diseases, including cancer,” Lisa C. Richardson, MD, MPH, director of CDC’s division of cancer prevention and control, said in the release. “What that means to health care providers like me is helping people to have the information they need to make healthy choices where they live, work, learn and play.” – by Alexandra Todak

Disclosures: The authors report no relevant financial disclosures.