Obesity linked to ovarian cancer

Mixed results on the link between ovarian cancer and obesity have been made more clear by a recent study – which suggests that being overweight is a "probable" cause of this type of cancer.

The findings come from a report released by the American Institute for Cancer Research and World Cancer Research Fund. According to the study, a five-point increase in BMI can increase a woman's risk of ovarian cancer by 6 percent. Current standards from the National Institutes of Health suggest that a BMI above 25 indicates that a person is overweight, while a BMI over 30 indicates obesity.

Weight added to risk factors

Twenty-five studies that included about 4 million women were analyzed for the current report. In addition to the link between rising BMI units and rising cancer risk, the study also found that women with a BMI higher than 28.4 had a significantly higher risk for ovarian cancer than women who had a lower BMI.

Risk factors like age and family history were already known to be red flags for ovarian cancer, but now prevention efforts should also include maintaining a healthy weight, researchers noted.

A factor that can be controlled

Alexi Wright, medical oncologist at the Susan F. Smith Center for Women's Cancer at Boston's Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, suggests that taking oral contraceptives can lower ovarian cancer risk because it reduces the amount of times a woman ovulates.

And while weight loss might have a more beneficial effect on certain groups of women – like those who are premenopausal or those that haven't taken hormone replacement therapy – noted Wright, slimming down is within a woman's control, unlike the other factors associated with ovarian cancer risk.

"You can't change who your mother was or whether your mother had ovarian cancer," Wright told USA Today. "There is overwhelming evidence that exercise and avoiding obesity improves lots of health conditions."

According to the American Cancer Society, ovarian cancer kills more than 14,000 women each year.

Source: USA Today
Photo credit: Ohmega1982/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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