Cancer is a major cause of deaths among Americans and one of the reasons for it is obesity, according to a study. It stated that there is an increased risk of developing this chronic illness among obese and overweight people in the United States.

The research, published in the medical journal JAMA Network Open last week, focused on the association between different types of cancer and the changes in age distribution of obesity. During their 16-year-long study, the researchers found that people between 50 and 64 years were at greater risk of developing cancer.

There is a rapid increase in the number of Americans being diagnosed with cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute. In 2016, around 15.5 million people in the country were living with this illness and the number of cancer survivors was estimated to be 20.3 million by 2026, the government agency stated.

The latest study led by Siran Koroukian, director of the Population Cancer Analytics Shared Resource at Case Comprehensive Cancer Center in Cleveland, Ohio, found parallels between the increasing obesity rates and the rising number of cancer patients in the U.S.

“Obesity creates a state of constant low-grade inflammation, as well as multiple growth stimulating factors, all of which can accelerate the development of cancer,” Koroukian, who is also an associate professor in the department of population and quantitative health sciences at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, said.

For the study, the research team analyzed the data of six million cancer patients which they collected from the Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results 18 (SEER18) database. The collected information had details about the number of cancer cases diagnosed from the year 2000 through 2016.

The different types of cancer the researchers looked into were thyroid, kidney, uterus, pancreas, liver, stomach, esophagus, gallbladder, female breast cancer, myeloma and rectum and colon cancers. The researchers closely looked into the number of cancer cases by dividing the data into three different sections based on the age groups of patients – 20-49, 50-64 and people aged 65 and above.

At the end of the study, the team found a great difference in the number of people being diagnosed with obesity-related cancer and non-obesity related cancer. Of all the six million cases in the study, 43.6 percent were caused due to obesity and most of them aged between 50 and 64 years.

“There is some evidence that weight loss (among those who are obese) can prevent the development of cancer. The most important strategy is maintaining a normal weight,” the lead researcher told Reuters.

The research team concluded the study by stating that “the findings have important public health implications and suggest that interventions to reduce obesity and to implement individualized screening programs are needed”.

Obese Man
A man is pictured walking along the Embarcadero April 6, 2005 in San Francisco. Getty Images