Obesity: strongest risk factor for colon cancer in women

October 17, 2007 in Cancer Prevention, Nutrition Topics in the News, Women's Health

Obesity: strongest risk factor for colon cancer in women

Obese women are 20 percent more likely to develop colon cancer than slimmer women, say researchers from Stony Brook University in New York.

In the study, the research team looked at the medical records of 1,252 women who had undergone colonoscopies. A colonoscopy is a diagnostic procedure which allows a doctor to see inside the colon with a long, lighted tube that detects any unusual growths or lesions in the colon.

The women in the study were classified by age, smoking history, family history of colon cancer and BMI. One in five women who had precancerous lesions in their colon had a BMI over 30, making obesity a stronger predictor of colon cancer than smoking or family history.

Researchers are unsure of why obesity may increase the risk of colon cancer in women. One hypothesis is that excess weight raises insulin levels and insulin-like growth factor, which may speed up the growth of colon cancer cells.  

In Canada, one in 16 women will develop colon cancer during their lifetime. In light of this new research, the researchers are encouraging doctors to discuss BMI with their patients and counsel on weight loss if necessary.

Click here to calculate your BMI.

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