Larger Waistlines May Increase Colon Cancer Risk

SEPTEMBER 01, 2006
Susan Farley

A large European study of men's and women's waistlines showed that those with more abdominal fat were more likely to develop colon cancer. The nutrition and cancer study assessed risk among 368,277 men and women by recording body measurements and obtaining information on participants' diet, exercise, and lifestyles. In the 6 years following, researchers determined that men with the largest waistlines were 39% more likely to be diagnosed with colon cancer than the slimmer men in the study. Women with the most abdominal fat were 48% more likely to develop colon cancer than those women with smaller waists. High body mass index measurements increased risk of colon cancer in men only. Researchers hypothesized that this was due to weight distribution— heavier men tend to carry weight around their mid-sections, and heavier women tend to carry weight in their hips and thighs. Researchers also suggest that abdominal fat, which is more "metabolically active," is influential in colon cancer risk because it raises certain hormones that affect the growth of cancer cells. These findings, which appeared in a recent issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, stress the importance of preventing abdominal obesity.

Ms. Farley is a freelance medical writer based in Wakefield, RI.