Losing weight could reduce chances of overweight people getting cancer - study

By losing weight people could reduce their chances of dying from cancer, a new medical study has found.

Researchers at the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute have found that by losing weight and maintaining a healthy Body Mass Index (BMI), an overweight person could reduce their risk of dying from cancer by 30 percent.

The study also found that an overweight individual can lessen the risk of developing cancer by retirement age by 10 percent if they reduce their BMI by 5 points.

The BMI of an individual is a height-to-weight ratio commonly used to measure obesity. Those with a BMI over 25 are classed as being overweight, while those over 30 are obese.

The study's senior author, Associate Professor Stuart MacGregor said researchers came to the result by looking at the relationship between genes, obesity and cancer.

"By examining how genetic predisposition to obesity was related to cancers, we could also explore how other people who were overweight – due to lifestyle and other factors – were also at higher risk," he said.

Because two-thirds of a person's weight gain is attributable to their lifestyle and environment, by eating healthily and looking after themselves, they could lessen their risk of cancer.

But those with genetic disposition to being overweight still had a higher risk of developing more aggressive cancers as genes cannot be changed.

"This study adds to the growing evidence that obesity causes cancer and might explain why all cancer rates have increased as populations have become heavier," said MacGregor.

The study recommended that cancer prevention strategies continue to target weight control.

It looked at the genetic data from more than 46,000 caucasian British participants aged between 40 and 69 who had developed cancer, with 360,000 participants without cancer.

The results were similar for men and women as well as smokers and non-smokers.