Excess weight expected to become second leading preventable cause of cancer, after tobacco

27 May 2019

lifesaving researchIf Canada doesn’t take action, then the number of new cancer cases due to excess weight is expected to nearly triple by 2042, says a new Canadian Cancer Society (CCS)-funded study.

This means that excess weight would become the 2nd leading preventable cause of cancer after tobacco. Excess weight increases risk for at least 13 different types of cancer, including breast, colorectal, endometrial and esophageal cancers.

Currently 1 in 2 Canadian adults have excess weight. Excess weight is complex, and many things can have an impact on a person’s body weight, such as genes, where they live and work, or the availability and cost of healthy options. CCS encourages Canadians to check with their doctor about what a healthy body weight is for them and the steps they can take to work toward that weight.

The study, called the Canadian Population Attributable Risk of Cancer, or ComPARe study, is the first of its kind in Canada. It also revealed that if we don’t act now, then by 2042 almost 60% more cancer cases will be due to modifiable risk factors.

“This new study gives us insight into where we can make the biggest difference in cancer prevention for Canadians so they can live their lives to the fullest,” says Dr Leah Smith, Senior Manager, Surveillance at the Canadian Cancer Society (CCS). “CCS is committed to improving and saving lives, and preventing cancer is an important part of this commitment.”

Currently, the top five leading preventable causes of cancer are smoking tobacco, followed by physical inactivity, excess weight, low fruit consumption and sun exposure. The ComPARe study also revealed that about 4 in 10 cancer cases can be prevented through healthy living and public policies that protect the health of Canadians.

“Results from the ComPARe study will guide further research, inform program development, influence behavior change and support new policies and programs aimed at decreasing the preventable burden of cancer in Canada,” says Dr Christine Friedenreich, principal investigator on the ComPARe study and adjunct professor at the University of Calgary.

Together we can help people live long healthy lives by adopting healthy habits and encouraging government to make healthy living easier for all Canadians. Learn more about the ComPARe study at prevent.cancer.ca or cancer.ca/prevention to learn more about how to reduce your risk of cancer.