Global burden of cancer attributable to high body-mass index in 2012: a population-based study

Arnold, Melina, Pandeya, Nirmala, Byrnes, Graham, Renehan, Andrew G., Stevens, Gretchen A., Ezzati, Majid, Ferlay, Jacques, Miranda, J. Jaime, Romieu, Isabelle, Dikshit, Rajesh, Forman, David and Soerjomataram, Isabelle (2015) Global burden of cancer attributable to high body-mass index in 2012: a population-based study. Lancet Oncology, 16 1: 36-46. doi:10.1016/S1470-2045(14)71123-4

Author Arnold, Melina
Pandeya, Nirmala
Byrnes, Graham
Renehan, Andrew G.
Stevens, Gretchen A.
Ezzati, Majid
Ferlay, Jacques
Miranda, J. Jaime
Romieu, Isabelle
Dikshit, Rajesh
Forman, David
Soerjomataram, Isabelle
Title Global burden of cancer attributable to high body-mass index in 2012: a population-based study
Journal name Lancet Oncology   Check publisher's open access policy
ISSN 1470-2045
Publication date 2015-01
Year available 2014
Sub-type Article (original research)
DOI 10.1016/S1470-2045(14)71123-4
Open Access Status DOI
Volume 16
Issue 1
Start page 36
End page 46
Total pages 11
Place of publication London United Kingdom
Publisher The Lancet Publishing Group (Elsevier)
Collection year 2015
Language eng
Formatted abstract

High body-mass index (BMI; defined as 25 kg/m2 or greater) is associated with increased risk of cancer. To inform public health policy and future research, we estimated the global burden of cancer attributable to high BMI in 2012.


In this population-based study, we derived population attributable fractions (PAFs) using relative risks and BMI estimates in adults by age, sex, and country. Assuming a 10-year lag-period between high BMI and cancer occurrence, we calculated PAFs using BMI estimates from 2002 and used GLOBOCAN2012 data to estimate numbers of new cancer cases attributable to high BMI. We also calculated the proportion of cancers that were potentially avoidable had populations maintained their mean BMIs recorded in 1982. We did secondary analyses to test the model and to estimate the effects of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) use and smoking.


Worldwide, we estimate that 481 000 or 3·6% of all new cancer cases in adults (aged 30 years and older after the 10-year lag period) in 2012 were attributable to high BMI. PAFs were greater in women than in men (5·4% vs 1·9%). The burden of attributable cases was higher in countries with very high and high human development indices (HDIs; PAF 5·3% and 4·8%, respectively) than in those with moderate (1·6%) and low HDIs (1·0%). Corpus uteri, postmenopausal breast, and colon cancers accounted for 63·6% of cancers attributable to high BMI. A quarter (about 118 000) of the cancer cases related to high BMI in 2012 could be attributed to the increase in BMI since 1982.


These findings emphasise the need for a global effort to abate the increasing numbers of people with high BMI. Assuming that the association between high BMI and cancer is causal, the continuation of current patterns of population weight gain will lead to continuing increases in the future burden of cancer.
Keyword Hormone replacement therapy
Cause specific mortality
Breast cancer
Epidemiologic evidence
Waist circumference
Pancreatic cancer
Obesity epidemic
187 countries
Risk factors
Q-Index Code C1
Q-Index Status Confirmed Code
Institutional Status UQ
Additional Notes Published online ahead of print 26 Nov 2014

Document type: Journal Article
Sub-type: Article (original research)
Collections: Official 2015 Collection
School of Public Health Publications
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