Weight & cancer

Our analysis of global evidence shows that being overweight or obese increases the risk of 11 cancers

To date, the research we have analysed for our Continuous Update Project and Second Expert Report has shown that excess body fatness is linked to an increased risk of developing eleven cancers.

Body fatness (marked by body mass index (BMI)), is a key factor influencing health and well being throughout life.

Cancer Increment RR of increased body fatness (95% CI) Report date
Stomach cardia 5 kg/m2 1.23 (1.07-1.40) 2016
Kidney 5 kg/m2 1.30 (1.25-1.35) 2015
Gallbladder 5 kg/m2 1.25 (1.15-1.37) 2015
Liver 5 kg/m2 1.30 (1.16-1.46) 2015
Advanced prostate cancer 5 kg/m2 1.08 (1.04-1.12) 2014
Ovarian 5 kg/m2 1.06 (1.02-1.11) 2014
Endometrial 5 kg/m2 1.50 (1.42-1.59) 2013
Pancreatic 5 kg/m2 1.10 (1.07-1.14) 2012
Colorectal 1 kg/m2 1.02 (1.02-1.03) 2011
Postmenopausal breast cancer 2 kg/m2 1.05 (1.03-1.07) 2010
Oesophageal (adenocarcinoma) No meta-analysis for cohort studies 2007
How does body fatness affect cancer risk?

Body fatness influences the levels of a number of hormones and growth factors. Insulin and leptin are all elevated in obese people, and can promote the growth of cancer cells. In addition, insulin resistance is increased, in particular by abdominal fatness, and the pancreas compensates by increasing insulin production. This hyperinsulinaemia increases the risk of cancers of the colon, endometrium and kidney, and possibly of the pancreas. In men, obesity is related to lower serum testosterone levels, which in turn may be associated with enhanced risk of or adverse outcome in advanced prostate cancer.

Obesity is associated with a low-grade chronic inflammatory state. Obese adipose tissue is characterised with macrophage infiltration and these macrophages are an important source of inflammation in this tissue. The adipocyte (fat cell) produces pro-inflammatory factors, and obese individuals have elevated concentrations of circulating tumour necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha interleukin (IL)-6, and C-reactive protein, compared with lean people, as well as of leptin, which also functions as an inflammatory cytokine. Such chronic inflammation can promote cancer development.

Obesity is a risk factor for non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), which may progress to cirrhosis and therefore an increased risk of developing liver cancer.

In addition, obesity is a known cause of gallstone formation, and having gallstones increases the risk of gallbladder cancer.

Excess body fat increases the risk of high blood pressure – a factor positively related to the development of kidney cancer.

Excess body fat also puts pressure on the abdomen, which can lead to chronic gastroesophageal reflux, causing cellular and DNA damage around the gastric cardia.

How much cancer could be avoided?

Cancer is often thought to be a mainly inherited disease. This is not so. Some people, and related family members, have inborn high vulnerability to specific cancers. However, to a greater or lesser extent every person has innate or acquired susceptibility to many different diseases. In the greater majority of cases, such susceptibility only leads to actual disease, such as cancer, when driven by external factors. The Continuous Update Project and Second Expert Report identified body fatness as a major risk factor for cancer. Click here to see how many cases of cancer could be avoided if people maintained a healthy weight.



South-East Asia has the highest rate of exclusive breastfeeding for six months

Source: World Health Statistics 2009

The World Health Organization recommends exclusive breastfeeding up to 6 months of age, with continued breastfeeding as well as appropriate complementary foods up to two years of age or beyond.

The per cent of babies exclusively breastfed for six months in the period 2000 to 2008 was highest in South-East Asia at 43 per cent. The lowest rate of exclusive breastfeeding for six months was in Europe. Rates of over 65 per cent were found in Rwanda, Madagascar and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

Breast milk is the ideal food for newborns and infants, giving them all the nutrients needed for healthy development. As well as protecting babies from infection and disease, babies who are breastfed are also less likely to be overweight as children or adults. Lactation also benefits mothers; the WCRF/AICR Expert Report found convincing evidence that lactation protects against both premenopausal and postmenopausal breast cancer.

Percent of infants exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months of life

Alcohol & cancer

Consuming alcohol is linked to an increased risk of six cancers.

For cancer prevention, it’s best not to drink alcohol. If consumed, people should limit alcoholic drinks and follow national guidelines.

Our analysis of worldwide research shows strong evidence that consuming alcoholic drinks increases the risk of six cancers: bowel (colorectal), breast, mouth, pharynx and larynx (mouth and throat), oesophageal, liver and stomach.

For liver and stomach cancer the increased risk was observed for more than three alcoholic drinks per day. For the four other cancers even low levels of drinking were associated with increased risk.

Research also shows that consuming up to two alcoholic drinks a day decreases the risk of kidney cancer; however the effects of higher levels of drinking are unclear.

Countries with highest consumption of alcoholic drinks

Worldwide consumption in 2010 was equal to 6.2 litres of pure alcohol per person aged 15 years or older, which is about one drink per day [1].

Worldwide, 62 per cent of the population had not drunk alcohol in the past year, and 14 per cent had drank alcohol earlier in life but not in the past 12 months. Almost half of the global adult population (48%) has never consumed alcohol [1].

The data for 2010 show that countries in Eastern Europe have the highest intakes (see table). The figures are averaged over the whole country and also include people who do not drink alcohol.

Table: Top countries with highest consumption alcohol in 2010 [1]

Rank Country Alcoholic drinks per day (aged 15 years or older)*
1 Belarus 3.0
2 Moldova (Republic of) 2.8
3 Lithuania 2.6
4 Russian Federation 2.5
5 Romania 2.4
6 Ukraine 2.3
6 Andorra 2.3
8 Hungary 2.2
8 Czech Republic 2.2
8 Slovakia 2.2
8 Portugal 2.2
12 Serbia 2.1
12 Grenada 2.1
12 Poland 2.1
12 Latvia 2.1
12 Finland 2.1
12 Korea (Republic of) 2.1
12 France 2.1
12 Australia 2.1
12 Croatia 2.1
* Alcoholic drinks per day were estimated from litres of pure alcohol consumed per person, per year; where 1 drink is equivalent to 13g of pure ethanol.


Link between lifestyle & cancer risk

According to the World Health Organization, four non-communicable diseases (NCDs) – cancers, cardiovascular diseases, respiratory diseases and diabetes – are responsible for 80% of all deaths from NCDs worldwide. This is despite the fact that there is a clear link between lifestyle and non-communicable diseases.

Our own analysis of global research shows that about a third of the most common cancers can be prevented through diet, maintaining a healthy weight and taking regular physical activity.

So behaviour change is key to the prevention and control of non-communicable diseases, particularly as the number of cancer cases are expected to rise globally over the next two decades.

On this page we highlight specific lifestyle factors and their link to cancer; this includes:

looking at the research analysis we conduct as part of our Continuous Update Project (CUP) – the world’s largest, most authoritative and up-to-date source of scientific research on cancer prevention and survivorship through diet, nutrition, physical activity and cancer;

Data for cancer frequency by country

Worldwide data
Comparing more & less developed countries
Data for cancer frequency by country

Data for cancer frequency by country
This page presents the age-standardised rate for all cancers (excluding non-melanoma skin cancer) ordered by the countries with the 50 highest rates.

The age-standardised rate for all cancers (excluding non-melanoma skin cancer) for men and women combined was 182 per 100,000 in 2012. The rate was higher for men (205 per 100,000) than women (165 per 100,000).

Both sexes

The highest cancer rate for men and women together was found in Denmark with 338 people per 100,000 being diagnosed in 2012.
The age-standardised rate was at least 300 per 100,000 for nine countries (Denmark, France, Australia, Belgium, Norway, United States of America, Ireland, Republic of Korea and The Netherlands).
The countries in the top ten come from Europe, Oceania, Northern America and Asia.
Rank Country Age-Standardised Rate per 100,000 (World)
1 Denmark 338.1
2 France (metropolitan) 324.6
3 Australia 323.0
4 Belgium 321.1
5 Norway 318.3
6 United States of America 318.0
7 Ireland 307.9
8 Korea, Republic of 307.8
9 The Netherlands 304.8
10 New Caledonia 297.9
11 Slovenia 296.3
12 Canada 295.7
13 New Zealand 295.0
14 Czech Republic 293.8
15 Switzerland 287.0
16 Hungary 285.4
17 Iceland 284.3
18 Germany 283.8
19 Israel 283.2
20 Luxembourg 280.3
21 Italy 278.6
22 Slovakia 276.9
23 United Kingdom 272.9
24 Sweden 270.0
25 Serbia 269.7
26 Croatia 266.9
27 Barbados 263.1
28 Armenia 257.0
29 Finland 256.8
30 French Polynesia 255.0
31 Austria 254.1
32 Lithuania 251.9
33 Uruguay 251.0
34 Spain 249.0
35 Latvia 246.8
36 Portugal 246.2
37 France, Martinique 245.0
38 Malta 242.9
39 Estonia 242.8
40 FYR Macedonia 239.3
41 Montenegro 238.3
42 Kazakhstan 236.5
43 Bulgaria 234.8
44 Poland 229.6
45 Romania 224.2
46 Belarus 218.7
47 Cuba 218.0
48 Japan 217.1
49 Argentina 216.7
50 Puerto Rico 211.1
Source: Ferlay J, Soerjomataram I, Ervik M, Dikshit R, Eser S, Mathers C, Rebelo M, Parkin DM, Forman D, Bray, F.
GLOBOCAN 2012 v1.1, Cancer Incidence and Mortality Worldwide: IARC CancerBase No. 11 [Internet]. Lyon, France: International Agency for Research on Cancer; 2014. Available from: http://globocan.iarc.fr, accessed on 16/01/2015.


The highest cancer rate was found in France with 385 men per 100,000 being diagnosed in 2012.
The age-standardised rate was at least 350 per 100,000 in eight countries (France, Australia, Norway, Belgium, Martinque, Slovenia, Hungary and Denmark).
The countries in the top ten come from Europe, Oceania and the Americas.
Rank Country Age-Standardised Rate per 100,000 (World)
1 France (metropolitan) 385.3
2 Australia 373.9
3 Norway 368.7
4 Belgium 364.8
5 France, Martinique 358.4
6 Slovenia 358.2
7 Hungary 356.1
8 Denmark 354.3
9 United States of America 347.0
10 Czech Republic 345.9
11 Ireland 343.3
12 Korea, Republic of 340.0
13 Slovakia 338.2
14 Switzerland 337.9
15 New Caledonia 330.7
16 The Netherlands 327.8
17 Latvia 325.0
18 Germany 323.7
19 Estonia 321.9
20 Canada 320.8
21 New Zealand 320.1
22 Croatia 319.9
23 Israel 318.0
24 Italy 312.9
25 Spain 312.8
26 Lithuania 311.8
27 Luxembourg 309.1
28 Portugal 306.3
29 Armenia 305.6
30 Iceland 299.5
31 Serbia 299.2
32 Uruguay 297.5
33 Sweden 296.8
34 Austria 295.2
35 Finland 290.1
36 French Polynesia 287.4
37 United Kingdom 284.0
38 Kazakhstan 282.2
39 Barbados 277.2
40 Belarus 275.5
41 Trinidad and Tobago 273.5
42 Romania 271.0
43 Poland 269.2
44 Malta 267.7
45 FYR Macedonia 265.5
46 Montenegro 262.7
47 France, Guadeloupe 260.9
48 Bulgaria 260.5
49 Japan 260.4
50 Turkey 257.8
Source: Ferlay J, Soerjomataram I, Ervik M, Dikshit R, Eser S, Mathers C, Rebelo M, Parkin DM, Forman D, Bray, F.
GLOBOCAN 2012 v1.1, Cancer Incidence and Mortality Worldwide: IARC CancerBase No. 11 [Internet]. Lyon, France: International Agency for Research on Cancer; 2014. Available from: http://globocan.iarc.fr, accessed on 16/01/2015.


The highest cancer rate was found in Denmark with 329 women per 100,000 being diagnosed in 2012.
The age-standardised rate was at least 280 per 100,000 for Denmark, United States of America, Republic of Korea, The Netherlands and Belgium.
The countries in the top ten come from Europe, Oceania, Asia and Northern America.
Rank Country Age-Standardised Rate per 100,000 (World)
1 Denmark 328.8
2 United States of America 297.4
3 Korea, Republic of 293.6
4 The Netherlands 289.6
5 Belgium 288.9
6 Ireland 278.9
7 Australia 278.6
8 Canada 277.4
9 Norway 277.1
10 France (metropolitan) 267.7
11 New Zealand 274.3
12 Iceland 274.2
13 New Caledonia 269.3
14 United Kingdom 267.3
15 Luxembourg 259.6
16 Czech Republic 258.9
17 Israel 258.7
18 Barbados 258.1
19 Italy 255.2
20 Germany 252.5
21 Slovenia 251.5
22 Sweden 248.7
23 Serbia 247.6
24 Switzerland 245.9
25 Slovakia 238.0
26 Hungary 236.5
27 Finland 234.2
28 Croatia 231.6
29 Malta 228.9
30 French Polynesia 227.3
31 Armenia 226.4
32 Lithuania 224.0
33 Bahamas 223.4
34 Austria 222.7
35 Uruguay 220.9
36 FYR Macedonia 220.8
37 Bulgaria 220.1
38 Montenegro 219.7
39 Kazakhstan 216.7
40 Argentina 211.8
41 Zimbabwe 209.1
42 Latvia 206.5
43 Poland 205.6
44 Estonia 202.7
45 Singapore 198.7
46 Cyprus 198.2
47 Spain 198.1
48 Portugal 198.1
49 Kenya 196.6
50 Mauritius 193.9
Source: Ferlay J, Soerjomataram I, Ervik M, Dikshit R, Eser S, Mathers C, Rebelo M, Parkin DM, Forman D, Bray, F.
GLOBOCAN 2012 v1.1, Cancer Incidence and Mortality Worldwide: IARC CancerBase No. 11 [Internet]. Lyon, France: International Agency for Research on Cancer; 2014. Available from: http://globocan.iarc.fr, accessed on 16/01/2015.

Breast Cancer’s Impact on Women and Society

nearly impossible to find someone in our country who has not been impacted by breast cancer. If you are a woman you may have the disease yourself—1 in 8 U.S. women will develop breast cancer during her lifetime.

An estimated 230,500 new cases of invasive breast cancer and 57,650 new cases of non-invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed among U.S. women each year, according to the American Cancer Society. That’s over a million American women diagnosed with new cases of breast cancer every four years. Clearly, this condition leaves a significant imprint on the health of women in our society.

Western Medicine Applies Modern Physics in the Detection and Treatment of Breast Cancer

Western methods of detection and treatment of breast cancer apply concepts of modern physics. Every day, diagnostic tools such as MRIs and CAT scans are used to detect breast cancer. These tests penetrate deep into the body to provide physical pictures of what the eye cannot see—so far, only to a certain point.

These advanced medical tests reflect the practical application of principles of modern physics: how everything in this reality is comprised of energy—is energy—at its most elemental level and how changes in the interconnection and intercommunication of this energy impact physical reality.

Why Can’t Sophisticated Western Medical Tests Detect Breast Cancer Earlier in Its Formation?

Many Western medical professionals have concluded that breast cancer is present in the body for eight years before it can be detected on state-of-the-art tests like mammograms. Cancer is now viewed as a multi-stage process of cellular damage, leading to cell mutation, which occurs over a period of time.

If modern Western medical tests use advanced principles of energy, why can’t they detect breast cancer at much earlier points of formation? To date, these tests simply have not advanced to the point where they can reveal a picture of what is occurring in the body’s energy system, the level where disease originates and then progresses—if not interrupted and addressed—to manifest in the physical body.

Fundamental Principles of Modern Physics

In the early twentieth century, physics underwent a revolutionary change that has indelibly impacted our world view and created a wide range of technologies—smartphones and GPS systems, to name just two—that are now part of the modern landscape. These are some of the principles and concepts modern physics ushered in:

Quantum physics has discovered that at the subatomic level, “solid” material objects disintegrate into wavelike patterns of probability.

Quantum reality views these patterns as representing probabilities of interconnections and not probabilities of things.
Quantum insight has revealed that every atom is connected to every other atom throughout the universe, creating a vast web—like unity of interrelationships.
In quantum mechanics, how the observer observes nature determines what is ultimately seen, suggesting that our minds and thoughts influence what we observe in our physical reality.
Einstein’s relativity theory transformed our concepts of space and time. No longer are they viewed as separate and absolute entities but rather completely connected to form “space-time,” a four-dimensional continuum.
Space-time tells us that two different observers will order the same event in a different time sequence, depending on the speed at which each person is moving. This means each person has a unique experience of time.
Relativity’s principle of space-time resulted in a new framework to describe nature. Einstein’s equation, E = mc2, tells us mass is nothing but a form of energy, which can never be destroyed, only transformed.
Modern Physics and Traditional Chinese Medicine Converge to Form a New Complementary Model for Breast Cancer Prevention

A key question is this: If modern scientific principles can be used in the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer, why can’t we use the same model of science to help prevent breast cancer or its recurrence? Ironically, Western medical technology and practices utilize advanced applications of energy in diagnostic testing and treatment yet have not applied the same principles in terms of approach to disease etiology and true breast cancer prevention.

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) principles and practices completely mirror the concepts of modern physics. While the theories of quantum science and relativity sprang from the minds of brilliant modern physicists, the theoretical cornerstones of TCM—meridian theory and the Five Element theory, for example—manifested through the inner, intuitive exploration of ancient Chinese healing masters. For millennia, TCM has used its insight on how the flow of energy on a quantum level impacts the body, and how the body, mind and spirit form an interconnected unity, to diagnose and treat a wide variety of conditions, including the root causes and early warning symptoms of breast cancer.

TCM understands that true prevention has two key aspects: first, a comprehensive treatment strategy to make sure breast cancer doesn’t begin to grow, and second, if a woman already has breast cancer, a program to prevent its recurrence.

Quantum insight shows us everything is interconnected. So, from the TCM perspective, to understand cancer you have to understand the relationship of cancer to where it begins. Relativity’s space-time concept is applied by TCM to understand why breast cancer occurs more frequently in certain locations, such as the upper, outer quadrant of the breasts. TCM views the aspect of space in terms of where cancer grows. And it uses its knowledge of meridians (a network of energy pathways in the body) and their connections to internal organs, as well as the Five Element theory (a Universal framework), to diagnose and effectively treat stagnation or blockages of energy, or Qi, which can set the stage for disease processes to begin.

TCM uses natural treatment modalities, such as acupuncture, herbal therapy, Qigong (a self-healing Chinese energy practice) and foods-for-healing to address the underlying causes and symptoms of breast cancer. One important point is this: If the underlying causes and symptoms of breast cancer are not fully addressed, a woman’s chances at true prevention are compromised.

The entire focus of the TCM approach to health care—as it has been for thousands of years—is on true prevention. TCM understands how the mind, emotions and lifestyle impact a woman’s health, reflecting quantum insight that the observer impacts what is ultimately observed in her reality. True prevention means actively creating optimal heath overall and, when it comes to breast cancer, promoting true breast health.

Moving Forward with New Innovation in Breast Cancer Prevention

Innovation in modern physics has totally revolutionized our lives in many ways. Know it or not, we’ve realigned with an entirely new world paradigm. The technology we’ve gained as a result of discoveries in quantum science and relativity are currently at the forefront of what its theories hint at as possible. Why limit the direction and scope further innovation can now take?

TCM—one of the oldest, continually practiced medicines on our planet, and whose root shares the same understanding of matter, energy and interconnection with modern physics—points the way to a successful complementary approach to breast cancer prevention. Isn’t one woman’s life worth an open consideration of this innovative approach?