HealthDay News — Obese women have a 40% higher risk for developing a weight-related cancer compared with their thinner counterparts, results of a study released by Cancer Research UK indicate.

Obesity increases female patients’ risk of developing at least seven types of cancer — including bowel, post-menopausal breast, gallbladder, womb, kidney, pancreatic, and oesophageal cancer, according to a press release. Additionally, it is estimated that in a group of 1,000 obese women, 274 will be diagnosed with a body weight-linked cancer in their lifetime, compared with 194 women diagnosed in a group of 1,000 healthy weight women.

Table 1:  Relative risk of cancer type in healthy and obese female patients

Cancer type Relative risk Absolute lifetime risk (per 1,000 women)
Overweight Obese Cases in healthy weight women Cases in overweight women Cases in obese women Percentage change (%)
All body-weight
linked cancers
n/a n/a 194 229 274 41
Breast (post-
1.12 1.25 99 111 124 25
Bowel 1.15 1.32 50 58 66 32
Pancreas 1.14 1.30 13 15 17 31
1.55 2.40 6 9 14 133
1.52 2.31 16 24 37 131
Kidney 1.31 1.72 9 12 16 78
Gallbladder 1.23 1.51 0.1 0.1 0.2 100

Calculated by the Cancer Research UK Statistical Information Team, February 2015.

There are a number of possible ways that obesity can increase cancer risk in women, including one that’s linked to fat cells’ production of hormones, especially estrogen, which is believed to fuel cancer development, according to Cancer Research UK. However, everyone can lower their risk by trimming their waistline, one expert said.

“Lifestyle changes — like not smoking, keeping a healthy weight, eating a healthy diet, and cutting back on alcohol — are the big opportunities for us all to personally reduce our cancer risk,” Julie Sharp, PhD, of Cancer Research UK, said in a news release from the organization.

“Making these changes is not a guarantee against cancer, but it stacks the odds in our favor.”