What we’re funding – how can changes in weight throughout life affect cancer risk and survival?

Lucy is World Cancer Research Fund's Press and Commmunications Officer. She has a background in biomedical science and previously worked as a clinical trials data manager at the Institute of Cancer Research.

More people are becoming overweight or obese
earlier on in life – with global childhood obesity at a worrying all-time high.

  • If we become overweight earlier in life and spend more time overweight, how much would this increase our cancer risk?
  • If we only spend a short amount of our lives overweight, are we more likely to survive cancer?

We need to understand this to be able to provide effective prevention strategies and targeted cancer treatments – so we funded Dr Isabelle Soerjomataram’s project, which aims to find these much-needed answers.

What we need to know

Isabelle’s project will investigate whether the number of years spent being overweight before being diagnosed with cancer has an impact on the chances of surviving cancer.

She will also look into how much of this effect is actually caused by high body weight and how much is related to physical inactivity, smoking, unhealthy diet or diabetes – factors that have also been reported to increase the risk of developing cancer.

The study

She will use data from a number of large studies from different European and Asian countries, Australia and the USA.

Repeated assessments of height and weight will be used to estimate how many years each person spent overweight or obese throughout their life and then new statistical techniques will reveal the impact of the number of years spent being overweight or obese has on cancer survival.

Making a difference

The tragic truth is that rates of overweight and obesity are increasing in many countries worldwide. Knowing more about the exact relationship between obesity and cancer survival will allow us to improve cancer prevention advice and make cancer treatment more efficient.

This project also provides an important data resource for other researchers to use in the future, so we can continue to understand more about how our weight affects cancer risk and survival.

Our research grant programme is currently open for applications.

Lucy Eccles | 14 September 2017

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