People who are overweight in their twenties are three times more likely to develop cancers of the oesophagus and stomach, a study published in the British Journal of Cancer has found.
The study looked data from more than 400,000 people and analysed their reported height and weight at ages 20, 50, and at the time they gave the information. They were then assessed to see who developed cancer of either the oesophagus or upper stomach. Those who reported being overweight at the age of 20 were between 60% and 80% more likely to develop the cancers later in life, compared with those who did not report being overweight at that age. People who gained more than three stone during adulthood were found to be twice as likely to develop oesophageal cancer compared to people with others.
‘This study highlights how weight gain over the course of our lives can increase the risk of developing these two cancer types, both of which have extremely poor survival,’ said Dr Jessica Petrick, lead researcher of the study.
‘Carrying excess weight can trigger long-term reflux problems and heartburn that can lead to cancer. It can also change the levels of sex hormones, such as oestrogen and testosterone, cause levels of insulin to rise, and lead to inflammation, all of which are factors that have been associated with increased cancer risk.’
According to Cancer Research UK, being overweight or obese is the single biggest preventable cause of cancer in the UK after smoking and contributes to around 18,100 cases of cancer every year. Around 5,600 people are diagnosed with oesophagus and upper stomach cancers each year in the UK.