Cancer in Iowa study notes link between cancer, obesity

Iowa Now – Research

IOWA CITY — Obesity causes cancer — just like smoking causes cancer, and ultraviolet radiation causes cancer.

“I think the public isn’t aware of that link,” George Weiner, director of the University of Iowa Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center, said Tuesday while speaking about this year’s “Cancer in Iowa” report. “But there’s absolutely no question there is a link. It’s been well documented in multiple different populations. It’s been well documented in the research lab.”

Obesity-related cancers include kidney, thyroid, pancreas, and breast cancer, according to Weiner, who also serves as president of the board of directors for the Iowa Cancer Consortium and head of the Association of American Cancer Institutes.

Alexandra Olsen / The Gazette

“The poster child for metabolic cancer is uterine cancer in women,” according to Andrew Nish, interventional radiologist and director of the John Stoddard Center in Des Moines. “That is the cancer with the strongest metabolic link to obesity.”

And uterine cancer rates in Iowa — as with many of the other obesity-related cancers — have been on the rise. This year’s Cancer in Iowa report — released Tuesday by the State Health Registry of Iowa, based in the UI College of Public Health — shows 336 women per 100,000 got breast cancer in Iowa between 2011 and 2015, up from 261 per 100,000 between 1976 and 1980.

Kidney rates for the same time periods jumped from 5 per 100,000 women to 12 per 100,000 women and from 10 per 100,000 men to 23 per 100,000 men, according to the report. Those figures — along with spikes in pancreas, thyroid, and liver cancers — mirror a rise in obesity in Iowa, which reports the nation’s 13th highest obesity rate, a figure that’s doubled from 15 percent in 1991 to 30 percent.

“We have epidemiologic data — so we follow populations over time — that was our first clue,” Nish said about the connection between obesity and cancer. “But now we actually have the basic science to tell us …

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