New studies have found that your waist size is as good a predictor of your cancer risk as your BMI (Body Mass Index). The nation’s expanding waistlines are a real reason to be concerned. Women with a waist size over 35 inches and men with a waist size over 40 inches are those most at risk of developing cancer.
Experts from the International Agency for Research on Canceer (IARC) have shown that your waist measurement is as good at predicting cancer risk a BMI, your ratio of weight to height.
Dr Heinz Freisling from the IARC said people should get to know their BMI and their waist measurments. He said: “You only need to put a tape measure around your belly button. This is easy to do and can give a person an indication of whether their risk for specific cancers is increased or not – for instance pancreas or liver cancer which are known to be related to increased body fatness or obesity.”
Being overweight is linked to 13 types of cancer. It is the single biggest preventable cause of cancer after smoking. It was estimated that NHS England spent £5.1 billion on overweight and obesity related ill-health in 2014-15.
A Public Health England report from last year revealed that eight in 10 middle-aged people in the UK weighed too much, drank too much and did not exercise enough. UK children are also some of the most obese in Europe with nearly a third of children aged two to 15 classed as overweight or obese.
The NHS recommends that regardless of your height or BMI, you should try to lose weight if your waist is more than 94cm (37 inches) for men and more than 80cm (31.5 inches) for women.
The IARC study looked at data from 43,000 participants who had been monitored for an averagee of 12 years. More than 1,600 people were diagnosed with an obesity-related cancer.
The study found that adding around 11cm to the waistline increased the risk of obesity-related cancers by 13 per cent. Adding 8cm to the hips increased the liklihood of bowel cancer by 15 per cent.
Using BMI as an indicator of obesity is problematic because a high ratio can be caused by dense muscle. Therefore an athlete could be categorised as obese in the same way someone with excess fat would be.
Dr Freisling added: “Our findings show that both BMI and where body fat is carried on the body can be good indicators of obesity-related cancer risk. Specifically, fat carried around the waist may be important for certain cancers, but requires further investigation.”