Study Links Teen Obesity to Increased Bowel Cancer Risk

May 26th, 2015
Study Links Teen Obesity to Increased Bowel Cancer Risk

A study conducted in Sweden has linked teenage obesity to an elevated risk of bowel cancer.

Researchers followed the progress of 240,000 men in Sweden. At the start of the study, they were aged between 16 and 20 years old and the data spans 35 years. At the start of the study, just 6.5 percent of participants were overweight and 1 percent was obese.

The findings of the study, which have been published in the Gut journal, show that people who were overweight during their teenage years were up to twice as likely to develop bowel cancer as those who were a healthy weight. The analysis showed that there were 855 cases of colorectal cancer among the research group. However, the cases were not spread evenly through the weight categories and participants who were obese were 2.38 times more likely to develop bowel cancer than those in the normal weight range.

Bowel cancer is currently the third most common type of cancer, with more than 1.4 million new cases diagnosed in the world each year. Major risk factors include abdominal fat and consumption of red, processed meat.

The study, which was conducted by researchers at Orebro University Hospital in Sweden and Harvard University in the USA, shows a significant link between obesity and bowel cancer and the World Cancer Research Fund describes the connection between obesity and this form of cancer as “strong.”

Researchers believe that the study underlines the importance of childhood indicators for bowel cancer and could form an important reference for investigating the increased prevalence of colorectal cancer in younger patients, especially as rates of obesity in this age range continue to rise.

Rachel Thomson, from the World Cancer Research Fund, described the findings as “interesting” and said that the link between bowel cancer and obesity may stretch much further through life than anticipated. This study suggests implications throughout the life course and shows the potential impact of unhealthy habits, even at a young age.

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