Europeans have a different idea of what constitutes overweight than Americans. Here health authorities are up in arms as American’s BMI climbs over 30 into the realm of obesity. European researchers are taking harder looks at the effects of weight as the population’s weight pushes up over 25, merely overweight. With that rising weight, Europeans are also seeing a rise in weight related cancers, most notably colon cancer.
Reported in the September issue of the European Journal of Cancer, researchers at the University of Manchester in the UK used statistical models to predict the future of cancer rates in Europe. They also looked at something else: How would cancer rates change if Europeans changed their behaviors relative to weight and exercise?
Dr. Andrew Renehan and his colleagues used the Netherlands as their ideal of exercise and weight control as the population their is amongst most active, largely because walking and cycling are common means of transportation.
“We know that large numbers of colon cancer cases could be avoided by reducing exposure to risk factors,” Dr. Renehan. “And 2 of the most easily controllable risk factors are physical inactivity and excess weight, he added.”
What Dr. Renehan and his collegues found was overall, 17.5% of new colon cancer cases could be prevented by 2040, with the most benefit in Spanish women (in whom 21% of new colon cancer cases could be prevented). That’s a pretty significant risk reduction for what are the most readily modifiable risk factors for colon cancer.
The weight control in this optimistic prediction is aggressive, using a mean BMI of 21 which is well below where the vast majority of even healthy and active people live. Even with this in mind, the idea that nearly 1 in 5 cases of colon cancer could be prevented with weight control and exercise is a big deal.