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A large-scale data review projected that about 10% of all cancerswhich amounts to more than 100,000 cases per yearcould be avoided if people were not overweight or obese. These projections are based on published studies, updates to the 2002 International Agency for Research on Cancer report, and data from the Nurses' Health Study II. According to Graham Colditz, MD, DrPH, of the Harvard School of Public Health, 14% of colon cancers could be avoided if patients were not overweight or obese, as could 11% of breast cancer cases, 49% of endometrial cancers, 31% of kidney cancers, 30% of esophageal cancers, 14% of pancreas cancers, 20% of non- Hodgkin's lymphoma cases, and 17% of multiple myeloma cases. He emphasizes that these estimates are conservative when taking into account the prevalence of obesity in the United States. He notes that women who lose 5 to 20 lb can significantly reduce their risk of developing breast cancer. Dr. Colditz hopes these findings will reinforce the message that adults need to lose weight and keep it off in order to avoid the risk of cancer, as well as heart disease, diabetes, and stroke.
Ms. Farley is a freelance medical writer based in Wakefield, RI.