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Study Links Obesity to Ovarian Cancer

Update Date: Mar 11, 2014 03:28 PM EDT

According to a new study, obesity, which is most commonly tied to health conditions such as heart disease and diabetes, might be connected to another health risk. Researchers are now reporting that obesity can be blamed for increasing a woman's risk of developing ovarian cancer.

The new report is a part of an ongoing, larger study examining women's health. This recent publication is the first of its kind to able to report that excess fat is a "probable" cause of ovarian cancer. The report included 25 population-based studies that collected information on diet, weight, physical activity, and ovarian cancer risk.

"We estimated a 6 percent increase in [ovarian cancer] risk per five [points] increase in body-mass index," said report author Dr. Elisa Bandera, an associate professor of epidemiology at the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, in New Brunswick.

The researchers added that women who have a BMI of over 30, which classifies them as obese, have the highest risk of developing ovarian cancer. A BMI of over 25 is considered overweight. BMI measures weight in relation to height. On top of the weight factor, the researchers also found that taller women have a higher risk of being diagnosed with ovarian cancer. The researchers noted that both findings are correlations and not cause-and-effect relationships.

"What this means for cancer prevention is that prevention efforts need to target the life course, not just adulthood, and families, not just individuals," Bandera said according to WebMD. "Because we also have evidence linking obesity to other cancers and other chronic diseases, maintenance of healthy weight through a healthy diet and regular exercise is a safe bet to live a healthy life.

The American Cancer Society's Alpa Patel added, according to USA Today, "While this is no magic bullet, any way to reduce the risk of this deadly cancer, especially something like keeping a healthy weight, which has a role in overall cancer prevention, is worth acting on."

According to the American Cancer Society, ovarian cancer afflicts around 22,400 American women with more than 14,000 of them dying from the illness. The study was released by the American Institute for Cancer Research and the World Cancer Research Fund.

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