AICR's Cancer Research Update

Issue 49 — August 11, 2010

Also in this issue:

  1. In Brief: More Meat, More Weight Gain
  2. Looking at Labels
  3. Meat and Bladder Cancer Risk
  4. Low-Carb and Low-Fat Diet Nearly Identical

Increasing Obesity: Increasing Cancer

Fat CellsThe estimated number of cancer cases linked to excess body fat is now at over 103,000 per year. With a new report showing that the rates of obesity continue to rise, Americans will likely experience a corresponding increase in the national cancer rate in the years ahead, say AICR experts.

According to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2.4 million more Americans became obese between 2007 and 2009. The latest CDC report was based on self-reported data, and sets the obesity rate at approximately 26.7 percent of the US adult population, or 72.5 million people.

This figure still lies below the reported rate of 34 percent obesity, an estimate generally considered more accurate as it is drawn from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) and trained health technicians conducted measurements.

But whatever the rate of obesity, any excess body fat increases the risk of cancer. Excess body fat leads to an increased risk for seven common cancers: colorectal cancer, postmenopausal breast cancer, kidney cancer, esophageal cancer, endometrial cancer, pancreatic cancer and gallbladder cancer.

  “Obesity plays a central role in many cancers,” said AICR Director of Research Susan Higginbotham, PhD, RD. “Its links to heart disease and diabetes are well-known, but Americans need to understand that more obesity today means more cancer tomorrow.”

"Americans need to understand that more obesity today means more cancer tomorrow."

The 103,600 estimated cases of cancer in the US every year causes by excess body fat was calculated by combining projected cancer incidence for 2010 with data on the prevalence of obesity and its impact on cancer risk found in the 2009 AICR/WCRF report, Policy and Action for Cancer Prevention. That report estimated the percentage of various kinds of cancer that are attributable to such risk factors as poor diet, lack of physical activity and excess body fat.

The estimated cases of cancers linked to excess body fat include:

Estimated Cancer Cases
Cancer Site
Cases Per Year
endometrial cancers
esophageal cancers
pancreatic cancers
kidney cancers
gallbladder cancers
breast cancers
colorectal cancers


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Grilling SteaksIn Brief

With your gernerous support, AICR funds reserach in diet, physical activity and weight management. Please donate now.More Meat, More Weight Gain

A new study of almost 400,000 participants participants found that high intake of red meat may lead to weight gain in both men and women.

Study data came from participants of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC), which includes about 103,000 men and 270,000 women from ten European countries. After adjusting for estimated energy intake, the study found that every 250 additional grams of meat consumed (e.g., about one 9 ounce steak at approximately 450 kcal) would lead to a 4.4 pound increase in weight gain after 5 years.

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Research Roundup

Nutrition Facts LabelLooking at Labels

Approximately six out of ten consumers look at the Nutrition Facts panel when deciding to purchase food, with label readers eating fewer calories than the non-readers, according to a study published in this month’s Journal of the American Dietetic Association. Using data from about 5,500 adult participants of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, the researchers found that 52 percent of participants looked at the list of ingredients, 47 percent looked at serving size, and 44 percent reviewed health claims at least sometimes when deciding to purchase a food product.

Participants who reviewed the Nutrition Facts panel consumed overall less calories, total fat, saturated fat and sugars than consumers who did not use the panel. For example, food label readers who use the serving size information reported eating 150 fewer calories per day than when compared to non-label users.

For food labels to have greater influence on public health, more consumers will need to use them, the authors conclude, and a food label by itself is not enough to modify behavior to improve health outcomes.

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Meat and Bladder Cancer Risk

Bladder Cancer Sites link to larger image

Click on image for a larger version.

A new study suggests that consuming specific compounds in processed meat related to processing methods may be associated with an increased risk of developing bladder cancer. Published in the journal Cancer, the findings may be relevant for understanding the role of dietary exposures in cancer risk.

Processed meats often contain relatively high amounts of nitrates and nitrites. Used for preservation, the compounds act as carcinogens in laboratory studies.

In the study, researchers tracked participants aged 50 to 71 who were part of an ongoing National Institutes of Health-AARP study. Participants were first surveyed about the amount and preparation of meats in their diet. After eight years, researchers found that people whose diets were high in nitrites from all sources and those who got a lot of nitrates in their diets from processed meats, like cold cuts, had a 28 to 29 percent greater chance of developing bladder cancer than those who consumed the lowest amount of either compound.

AICR’s expert report linked consuming processed meats and high intake of red meat to an increased risk of developing colorectal cancer. The report found the evidence linking red and processed meat to bladder cancer too sparse to make a judgment. AICR is currently updating its findings on colorectal cancer as part of the Continuous Update Project: Results are expected in early 2010.

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Raw Meat and Raw Veggies

Low-Carb and Low-Fat Diet Nearly Identical

Focusing on either a low-carbohydrate or low-fat diet can both lead to similar amounts of weight loss when coupled with intense behavioral treatment, but a new study suggests that the low-carbohydrate diet may be more effective at improving cholesterol.

The study, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, randomly assigned approximately 300 obese patients to follow either a low-carb or low-fat diet plan for two years. The low-carb dieters were asked to limit carbohydrate intake and eat foods rich in fat and protein until satisfied. Low-fat dieters were asked to limit calorie intake and take in approximately 30 percent of their calories from fat. All participants received comprehensive in-person behavior counseling weekly for 20 weeks, every other week for 20 weeks, and then every other month for the remainder of the two-year study.

At the end of two years, participants from each group lost on average about 7 percent of their body weight or 15 pounds. Compared to the low-fat group, the HDL cholesterol levels were higher among the low-carbohydrate dieters, which may indicate this diet has greater long-term heart health effects, the authors conclude.

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