Policies, economic systems, and marketing practices that promote the consumption of energy-dense, nutrient-poor food, changing behavioral patterns that couple high total energy intake with insufficient physical activity, and human-built environments that amplify these factors are driving a worldwide rise in excess body weight, according to a new report. The report, appearing early online in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society, says excess body weight accounted for approximately 3.9% of all cancers worldwide in 2012, a figure that will undoubtedly rise in the coming decades given current trends.
The review, co-authored by investigators at the American Cancer Society, Imperial College London, and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, presents global and regional patterns in excess body weight, as well as factors driving the epidemic, a summary of the evidence linking excess body weight to cancer risk, and policy actions that could help address the issue. American Cancer Society scientist Hyuna Sung, Ph.D., is lead author of the report.
The prevalence of excess body weight has been increasing worldwide since the 1970s. In 2016, approximately 40% of adults and 18% of children (ages 5-19 years) had excess body weight, equating to almost 2 billion adults and 340 million children around the globe. The report says the prevalence of excess body weight has increased rapidly in most countries across all population groups. Some of the steepest increases are in low- and middle-income countries, likely the result of the spread of the “Western lifestyle,” consisting of energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods alongside reduced physical activity levels.