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Proportion of cancers associated with excess body weight varies considerably by state

Cancers related to body weight twice as predominant in women than in men

The proportion of cancers attributable to excess body weight varies among states, but accounts for at least 1 in 17 of all incident cancers in each state, according to a new American Cancer Society study published Dec. 27 in JAMA Oncology.

This nationwide cross-sectional study of U.S. adults found that the proportion of cancers attributable to excess body weight ranges from 3.9% to 6.0% among men, and from 7.1% to 11.4% among women, with the highest proportions found in several southern and midwestern states, Alaska, and the District of Columbia.

Excess body weight is an established cause of cancer, currently known to be linked to 13 cancers. While differences in excess body weight among states in the United States are well-known, there is little information on the burden of obesity-related cancers by state, information that would be useful for setting priorities for cancer control initiatives.

To learn more, American Cancer Society investigators led by Farhad Islami (pictured here), MD., PhD., scientific director, Surveillance Research, calculated the population attributable fraction (PAF) of incident cancer cases attributable to excess body weight among adults aged ≥30 years in 2011-2015 in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

They found that in both men and women, there was at least a 1.5-fold difference between states with the highest and lowest proportions of cancers attributable to excess body weight. Among men, the population attributable fraction (PAF) ranged from 3.9% in Montana to 6.0% in Texas. The PAF for women was approximately twice as high as for men, ranging from 7.1% in Hawaii to 11.4% in the District of Columbia. 

The proportion was far greater for some individual cancer types. For endometrial cancer, for example, the PAF was 50.0% or more in 19 states, and ranged from 36.5% in Hawaii to 54.9% in Mississippi.

"Broad implementation of known community- and individual-level interventions is needed to reduce access to and marketing of unhealthy foods (eg, through a tax on sugary drinks) and to promote and increase access to healthy foods and physical activity, as well as preventive care," the authors wrote.

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