Proceedings of the Nutrition Society

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Proceedings of the Nutrition Society (2010), 69:86-90 Cambridge University Press
Copyright © The Authors 2009

Research Article

Symposium 1: Overnutrition: consequences and solutions Obesity and cancer risk

Conference on ‘Over- and undernutrition: challenges and approaches’

on 30 June–2 July 2009, The Summer Meeting of the Nutrition Society, was held at the University of Surrey, Guildford.

Timothy J. Keya1 c1, Elizabeth A. Spencera1 and Gillian K. Reevesa1

a1 Cancer Epidemiology Unit, Nuffield Department of Clinical Medicine, University of Oxford, Richard Doll Building, Roosevelt Drive, Oxford OX3 7LF, UK
Article author query
key tj [PubMed]  [Google Scholar]
spencer ea [PubMed]  [Google Scholar]
reeves gk [PubMed]  [Google Scholar]


Epidemiological studies have provided convincing evidence that obesity increases the risk for cancers of the oesophagus (adenocarcinoma), colon, pancreas, breast (post-menopausal), endometrium and kidney. The magnitude of the increase in risk varies between cancer sites. For an increase in BMI of 10 kg/m2 relative risks are approximately 2·3 for adenocarcinoma of the oesophagus, 1·5 for colon cancer in men, 1·2 for colon cancer in women, 1·4 for post-menopausal breast cancer, 2·9 for endometrial cancer and >1·5 for kidney cancer, while the size of the effect on cancer of the pancreas is uncertain. There is also evidence that obesity increases the risks for cancers of the gallbladder, malignant melanoma, ovary, thyroid, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, multiple myeloma and leukaemia. Estimates of the percentage of cancers that can be attributed to excess body weight suggest that in the UK and similar countries approximately 5% of all cancers are attributable to overweight and obesity.

(Online publication December 03 2009)

Key Words:Obesity; Cancer; Epidemiology


c1 Corresponding author: Professor Timothy J. Key, fax +44 1865 289610, email