Excess weight nearly doubles a woman’s risk of developing uterine cancer, according to a new study.
The Cancer Research UK-funded study found that for five additional units of body mass index (BMI) – the equivalent of a 5ft 5in adult woman weighing two stone more – the risk increased by 88% .
The researchers analyzed genetic samples from some 120,000 women from Australia, Belgium, Germany, Poland, Sweden, the UK and the US, of whom around 13,000 had endometrial cancer .
Looking at markers for 14 traits that could link obesity and uterine cancer, they found two hormones – fasting insulin and testosterone – that increased the likelihood of being diagnosed with the disease.
By pinpointing precisely how hormones might increase risk, scientists in the future could use drugs to regulate levels of these hormones in people who are already at greater risk of developing cancer.
The paper’s lead author, Emma Hazelwood, said: “This study is an exciting first step in how genetic analyzes could be used to uncover exactly how obesity causes cancer and what can be done about it. remediate.
“The links between obesity and uterine cancer are well known, but this is one of the largest studies that has looked at exactly why it is at the molecular level.
“We look forward to further research to explore how we can now use this information to help reduce the risk of cancer in people struggling with obesity.”
The peer-reviewed study from the University of Bristol, which was published in BMC Medicine, is one of the first of its kind to examine the effect of higher BMI across the lifespan on risk of uterine cancer rather than a snapshot in time.
Being overweight or obesity is the second most preventable cause of cancer in the UK, with more than one in 20 cases estimated to be the result.
Womb cancer, which affects one in 36 British women during her lifetime, is particularly closely linked to obesity, which is the cause of around a third of cases.
Dr Julie Sharp, head of health information at Cancer Research UK, said: ‘Studies like this reinforce that being overweight or obese is the second leading cause of cancer in the UK and can help us to start figuring out why.
“This will play a central role in discovering how to prevent and treat cancer in the future.”
A BMI of 18 to 25 is considered a healthy weight, 25 to 30 is overweight, and over 30 is obese.
The 2019 Health Survey for England estimated that 28% of adults were obese and 36% were overweight.