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Obesity is now the leading cause of cancer

Waging war against those extra pounds just might save your life.

The leading cause of cancer these days is obesity, according to The Associated Press, with about 1 in 12 new cases of the disease due to excess weight.

European researchers say that obesity now accounts for up to 8% of cancers on the continent, according to the AP.

“Obesity is catching up at a rate that makes it possible it could become the biggest attributable cause of cancer in women within the next decade,” University of Manchester cancer expert Andrew Renehan told the AP. He spoke this week at a joint meeting of the European Society for Medical Oncology and the European Cancer Organization.

The news on this side of the pond’s not much more encouraging. Obesity and being overweight account for up to 14% of cancer deaths in men and 20% of cancer deaths in women, according to the National Cancer Institute. Some 20% to 30% of common cancers such as colon, postmenopausal breast, uterine and esophageal may be related to being overweight and to a lack of physical activity, according to the institute.

In the findings in Europe, colorectal cancer, breast cancer in menopausal women and uterine cancer accounted for 65% of all the cancers because of being overweight, according to the AP.

Though scientists don’t know why being obese increases cancer risk, they think it may be linked to hormones, according to the AP. Chubbier people produce more hormones, such as estrogen, that help tumors thrive. And big-bellied people have more stomach acid, which can lead to stomach and intestinal cancers.

Anyone who’s not sure whether or not they qualify as obese can check out the National Cancer Institute’s Web site. If you have a body mass index (BMI) of 18.5 to 24.9, you’re a healthy weight. Overweight people have a BMI of 25.0 to 29.9, and obese people weigh in with a BMI of 30 or higher.

The take-away message from the National Cancer Institute? Get moving! Lack of activity is the big culprit for why so many Americans are too fat, says the institute.

Sedentary pastimes like TV watching are to blame. One of the National Cancer Institute’s target goals for next year is to increase to 60% the proportion of adults who are at a healthy weight.

Renehan said it’s necessary to devise strategies to help people maintain a healthy weight, according to the AP. “We need to find the biological mechanism to help people find other ways of tackling obesity,” he said. “Just telling the population to lose weight obviously hasn’t worked.”

Maybe giving them some scary stats will.

If i'd known I was going to live so long, I'd have taken better care of myself. ~Leon Eldred