Your pants size might help gauge your risk of developing certain cancers, regardless of how much you actually weigh, Dutch researchers report.
A large waist and wide hips signal accumulation of so-called intra-abdominal fat -- the particularly harmful deep hidden fat that surrounds the abdominal organs and is linked to type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.
It has been hypothesized that clothing size is related to physique, and it was recently reported that clothing size appears to be a strong surrogate for obesity and intra-abdominal fat, Dr. Laura A. E. Hughes, of Maastricht University, the Netherlands, and colleagues note in the journal Epidemiology.
Using information on nearly 2500 men and women enrolled in a large study of diet and cancer, the researchers validated ties between a person's clothing size and waist and hip size and their body mass index - a standard measure used to tell how fat or thin a person is.
Trouser and skirt size correlated well with waist and hip circumference measurements in men and women, the investigators report.
Hughes and colleagues next looked at whether clothing size could predict cancer risk.
With an average follow up period of roughly 13 years, they found that, in women, bigger skirt size predicted greater risk of endometrial cancer, while in men, bigger trouser size predicted greater risk of kidney cancer in men.
These findings suggest that clothing size reflects a fat distribution different from that indicated by weight and height, Hughes said in an interview with Reuters Health.
Our results suggest that clothing size is a useful measure to predict cancer risk in studies where waist circumference is not available, she said.
Furthermore, it may be useful for future epidemiologic studies to collect clothing sizes in addition to weight and height, especially in populations where obtaining waist circumference is culturally problematic or challenging because of extreme obesity, she added.
For researchers interested in using clothing size prospectively as a proxy for change in waist circumference, Dr. Hughes added, it is important to realize that phenomena such as 'vanity sizing' in the modern clothing industry may bias results if not adequately addressed.
SOURCE: Epidemiology, September 2009.