Why is obesity no longer being taken seriously

28.02.2020 12:14

World Obesity Day March 4th: Obesity - Serious Cancer Risk Factor

Dr. Sibylle Kohlstädt Press and public relations
German Cancer-research center

The "World Obesity Day" on March 4th draws attention to the worldwide problem of severe obesity. In view of the day of action, scientists from the German Cancer Research Center emphasize the importance of being overweight for the risk of developing cancer. Overweight and especially obesity and the associated metabolic disorders are serious risk factors for a large number of cancers. Especially the increasing obesity in early childhood urgently requires preventive measures.

Many people reduce the negative effects of being very overweight to purely aesthetic or fashion aspects. The associated serious health effects are often not taken seriously. It is often not even known that obesity #, medically called “obesity”, is also a cancer risk factor that should not be underestimated. In a highly acclaimed study *, DKFZ epidemiologists working with Ute Mons and Hermann Brenner calculated in 2018 how many cancer cases in Germany can actually be attributed to the individual risk factors. They came to the conclusion that 6.9 percent of new cancer cases alone are due to obesity. This means that every year around 30,000 Germans develop cancer due to their excess weight.

Postmenopausal breast cancer, colon and rectal cancer, uterine cancer (endometrial cancer), esophageal cancer and renal cell cancer are significantly more common in obese people than in people of normal weight, as the experts at the International Cancer Research Agency in Lyon (IARC) published in 2016 **. In addition, obese people are more likely to develop liver or pancreatic cancer, ovarian cancer or multiple myeloma. The study data indicate a relationship between dose and effect: the more obese, the higher the risk of cancer. However, obesity does not play the same role in all types of cancer: in uterine and kidney cancer or adenocarcinoma of the esophagus, almost half of all cases are caused by obesity.

Rudolf Kaaks, also an epidemiologist at the DKFZ, also points out: “In particular, visceral fat, i.e. unhealthy belly fat, is the cancer driver, not so much the love handles on the bottom and legs. That is why people who actually pass as slim often have an increased risk of cancer without knowing anything about it. "

The experts are particularly concerned that the risk factor obesity often has its origin in early childhood: “It is to be expected that in 2022 there will be more obese than underweight 5 to 19 year olds worldwide. Within just 40 years, between 1975 and 2016, the rate of obese children has risen from less than one percent to almost six percent for girls and almost eight percent for boys, ”says Hermann Brenner, referring to an international study *** which he was involved. In many parts of the world, children and adolescents have developed very quickly from the most underweight to the most overweight population group. The authors assume that this is primarily related to the consumption of foods with a high energy density, such as highly processed carbohydrates.

Brenner sees a considerable need for political action here: “Preventive measures should be given top priority. Simple labeling of food and a health-promoting price policy, for example through staggered VAT rates, could provide important incentives for a healthy diet in the family. The school environment should also urgently promote a balanced diet and sufficient exercise. "

“The biological mediators that obesity promotes cancer include, for example, sex hormones and inflammatory messengers that are produced by adipose tissue,” explains Mathias Heikenwälder, metabolism researcher at the DKFZ. Today we know very well that inflammation is a cancer accelerator. Sex hormones act on many cells as growth factors that drive cancer growth. In overweight people there are also increased amounts of the growth factor IGF ("Insulin like growth factor"), which also drives cell growth.

“It is difficult to lose weight permanently,” summarizes Rudolf Kaaks. “My personal tip is therefore: Make sure that the pounds do not accumulate in the first place. Pay attention to this with your children as well. That is a useful contribution to cancer prevention! "

# Scientists speak of obesity in adults with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more. The BMI is calculated as follows: body weight [kg] divided by height [m] squared.

* Gundula Behrens, Thomas Gredner, Christian Stock, Michael F. Leitzmann, Hermann Brenner, Ute Mons: Cancer due to obesity, low physical activity and an unhealthy diet. Estimation of the attributable cancer burden in Germany.
Deutsches Ärzteblatt 2018,
DOI: 10.3238 / arztebl.2018.0578

** Lauby-Secretan B, Scoccianti C, Loomis D, Grosse Y, Bianchini F, Straif K; International Agency for Research on Cancer Handbook Working Group: Body Fatness and Cancer - Viewpoint of the IARC Working Group.
New England Journal of Medicine 2016,
DOI: 10.1056 / NEJMsr1606602

*** James Bentham et al .: Worldwide trends in body-mass index, underweight, overweight, and obesity from 1975 to 2016: a pooled analysis of 2416 population-based measurement studies in 128 9 million children, adolescents, and adults - by NCD Risk Factor Collaboration (NCD-RisC)
The Lancet 2017,
DOI: 10.1016 / S0140-6736 (17) 32129-3

The German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) is the largest biomedical research institution in Germany with more than 3,000 employees. Over 1,300 scientists at the DKFZ are researching how cancer develops, recording cancer risk factors and looking for new strategies to prevent people from developing cancer. They are developing new methods with which tumors can be diagnosed more precisely and cancer patients treated more successfully.
At the Cancer Information Service (KID) of the DKFZ, those affected, interested citizens and specialist groups receive individual answers to all questions about cancer.
Together with partners from the university clinics, the DKFZ operates the National Center for Tumor Diseases (NCT) in Heidelberg and Dresden, and also the Hopp Children's Tumor Center KiTZ in Heidelberg. In the German Consortium for Translational Cancer Research (DKTK), one of the six German Centers for Health Research, the DKFZ maintains translation centers at seven university partner locations. The combination of excellent university medicine with the top-class research of a Helmholtz center at the NCT and DKTK locations is an important contribution to transferring promising approaches from cancer research to the clinic and thus improving the chances of cancer patients.
The DKFZ is financed 90 percent by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research and 10 percent by the State of Baden-Württemberg and is a member of the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centers.

Contact for the press:

Dr. Sibylle Kohlstädt
Press officer
Communication and marketing
German Cancer-research center
In Neuenheimer Feld 280
69120 Heidelberg
T: +49 6221 42 2843
F: +49 6221 42 2968
Email: [email protected]
Email: [email protected]

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