A Swedish study recently concluded that women, just like men, who are obese and carry most of their extra fat in the abdominal area, are up to 70 percent more likely to develop pancreatic cancer, an extremely deadly form for the disease.
Previously, it was thought that a strong link existed between obesity and this disease in men. This study's results indicate that the link is just as strong in women, particularly after menopause.
Interestingly, it was specifically abdominal fat that was found to be the highest risk factor.
Pancreatic cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer death worldwide. It accounts for only about 2 percent of the cancers diagnosed each year but the survival rate after one year is less than 5 percent.
And a stronger link for obese men
Until now, smoking and chronic inflammation of the pancreas were the most well-established risk factors for the disease in men and women, with evidence also pointing to a strong obesity link for men.
As part of a large study known as the Women's Health Initiative, more than 138,000 menopausal women in the United States were followed for more than seven years to check the links between obesity and pancreatic cancer. The study found that 251 women developed the disease, and of these, 78 had the highest waist-to-hip ratios. After factoring in other risk factors, this was 70 percent more than the 34 women with the lowest excess stomach weight who got pancreatic cancer.
The findings also suggest that excess weight around the stomach may be a better predictor for the disease than the traditional Body Mass Index, or BMI, measurement for obesity, the researchers said.
They also suggested that obesity could increase the risk of pancreatic cancer by affecting insulin levels, and that diabetes may also play a role. Obesity is one of the main risk factors for diabetes. "We know that carrying a high proportion of abdominal fat is associated with increased levels of insulin, so we think this may cause the link between obesity and pancreatic cancer," the researchers said.
Several studies have shown that obesity raises the risk of several types of cancer, including breast and colon, as well as heart disease, high cholesterol levels, and many other serious conditions. So it's not just about fitting into your clothes or looking good for your partner... it's about your life. Literally.