Tens of thousands of cancer cases could be prevented with weight loss, research suggests

Putting down that doughnut could save your life, at least according to a new research project that includes researchers from the University of Calgary.

Lead researcher says about 12 cancer types linked to excess body weight

Research says losing weight could have a big impact on Canadian cancer rates. (Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

Putting down that doughnut could save your life, at least according to a new research project that includes researchers from the University of Calgary. 

The research, part of the Canadian Population Attributable Risk of Cancer Project (COMPARE), looked at how many cases of cancer could be avoided over the next few decades if Canadians lost weight. 

"There's about 12 cancer sites where there's strong evidence to suggest that having excess body weight is related to an increased risk of cancer," said Darren Brenner, an assistant professor of oncology at the U of C and one of the lead researchers.  

"So, some of these cancer sites include colon, breast, endometrial, kidney, esophageal and a long list of others."

Warning against conclusions

The study estimates tens of thousands of Canadians will be diagnosed with cancer due to carrying some extra weight. 

The team relied on data from Statistics Canada and the Canadian Cancer Registry, but Brenner warns against taking the research as conclusive in terms of causation or correlation.

"We've built some projection models based on national levels and historical data, saying if the trends we've observed over time are continuing, what is going to be the subsequent impact."

60,000 cases

Brenner said if the number of overweight and obese Canadians was cut in half, we could see a big drop in the number of cancer cases over the next 25 years.

"If we could just reduce the incidence or the prevalence of obesity in Canada back to where they were in the early '90s, we could potentially avoid 60,000 cancer cases in Canada," he said.

The research also projects that if nothing changes, more than 26,000 cancer cases in the year 2042 could be pinned on excess body weight.