Excess Body Weight Linked to Colorectal Cancer

Waist circumference in middle age associated with increased bowel cancer risk.

Waist circumference in middle age associated with increased bowel cancer risk.

Presentations from the 23rd United European Gastroenterology Week (UEG Week 2015) showed evidence supporting a link between excess body weight and the risk of colorectal cancer (CRC).

Data presented by John Mathers, MD, Professor of Human Nutrition, Institute of Cellular Medicine, Newcastle University, UK, indicated an overall 18% increase in the risk of CRC for each BMI level increase of 5 units.

According to Mathers, “In addition, in men, there is now evidence that increasing waist circumference in middle age is associated with increased bowel cancer risk. This increased cancer risk may be due to persistent inflammation in people with obesity.”

As the latest research has shown that patients with Lynch syndrome, often called hereditary nonpolyposis colorectal cancer (HNPCC), are at higher risk of CRC due to “an inherited defect in one of the DNA repairing genes,” Mathers also noted that the CRC risk increased in Lynch syndrome patients with higher body weight.

The population of Lynch syndrome patients with higher body weight had twice as many incidences of CRC than the general population.

In light of the data presented, experts understand the benefits of an improved lifestyle: better diets and more physical activity. Preventing, or at least managing, obesity is one of the more tangible methods for reducing the risk for bowel cancer.

Mathers said, “Bowel cancer is strongly associated with age, obesity, and diet, and is driven by inflammation. We can now give the public clear advice on the benefits of staying physically active, eating a healthy diet, and avoiding weight gain to lower CRC risk as we get older.”

Despite data presented, Mathers and colleagues do understand this is an area where further research is necessary.