The prevalence of excess body weight (EBW) in the United States is steadily increasing and is associated with several types of cancers. A study published in JAMAOncology reports that although the prevalence of cancer attributed to excess body weight varies in each state, at least one in 17 cases of cancer in each state in the United States is due to excess body weight. 

The study authors collected self-reported body mass index (BMI) information from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, and age and sex specific cancer incidence information from the United States Cancer Statistics database. The prevalence of weight-related esophageal adenocarcinoma; multiple myeloma; and cancers of the gastric cardia, colorectum, liver, gallbladder, pancreas, female breast, corpus uteri, ovary, kidney and renal pelvis, and thyroid were determined using 4 BMI categories and their corresponding risks determined from previous large-scale studies. 

Each year from 2011 to 2015, 4.7% of all cancer cases in men and 9.6% of all cancer cases in women, 30 years or older, were due to excess body weight. The prevalence of EBW-related cancer varied among states; for example, in Montana, 3.9% of men had EBW-related cancer compared with 6% of men in Texas.

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The prevalence of EBW-related cancer was twice as high for women than for men, ranging from 7.1% of women in Hawaii to 11.4% of women in the District of Colombia. The highest incidences of EBW-related cancer occurred mostly in southern and Midwestern states, as well as in the District of Colombia and Alaska. 

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According to the study authors having state-specific information regarding the prevalence of EBW-related cancer, “would be useful for setting priorities for cancer-control initiatives.” Such initiatives may range from the individual level to the community level where taxes on unhealthy food and drink might be implemented to discourage excess consumption.


Islami F, Sauer AG, Gapstur SM, Jemal A. Proportion of cancer cases attributable to excess body weight by US state, 2011-2015.JAMAOncology. 2018 Dec 27. DOI: 10.1001/jamaoncol.2018.5639