High body mass index (BMI) is associated with an elevated risk of various cancers in men and women, according to a new report.

In a Finnish study of a prospective cohort of 54,725 individuals aged 24–74 years and cancer-free at enrollment, increasing BMI was associated with increasing risk of cancers of the kidney, bladder, liver, colon, and all sites combined in men, and of cancers of the stomach, colon, gallbladder, and ovary in women, Xin Song, a PhD student at the University of Helsinki in Finland, and colleagues reported in the European Journal of Epidemiology (2014;29:477-487).

Increasing BMI was associated with decreasing risk of lung cancer in men and lung and breast cancers in women. Additionally, high BMI in women is associated with an increased overall cancer risk in never smokers but a decreased risk in smokers.

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“Given that the prevalence of obesity is increasing globally, there is an urgent need to understand the mechanisms linking obesity and cancer, and to develop strategy to prevent cancers,” the authors concluded.