Being overweight or having obesity amplifies the harmful effects of alcohol on the risk of developing alcohol-related cancer, particularly in people with a high body fat percentage, finds a new study.
The findings, presented at the European Congress on Obesity (ECO), also identified a dose-response relationship between higher obesity levels and the risk of developing obesity-related cancers, irrespective of alcohol consumption.
“Our results suggest that people with obesity, especially those with excess body fat, need to be more aware of the risks around alcohol consumption,” said researcher Elif Inan-Eroglu from The University of Sydney.
“With around 650 million adults living with obesity worldwide, this is a hugely important issue. When it comes to the lifestyle factors and habits that people can change to reduce their risk of cancer, obesity and alcohol are top of the list,” Inan-Eroglu added.
For this study, the team combined data from 399,575 participants, from the UK Biobank prospective cohort, who were cancer-free when the study began and followed for an average of 12 years. Cancers were identified from hospital admissions and cancer registry data.
Participants were divided into three groups according to their body fat percentage, waist circumference, and BMI) and classified according to their self-reported alcohol consumption to examine the joint association of alcohol consumption and obesity with the risk of 21 different types of cancer.
Over an average follow-up of 12 years, 17,617 participants were diagnosed with alcohol-related cancer and 20,214 developed obesity-related cancer.
The researchers found that across all obesity markers, people with higher body fat percentage levels who drank more than the recommended guidelines were at greater risk of cancer.
Regardless of alcohol intake, the analysis identified a dose-response relationship between larger waist circumference and risk of developing obesity-related cancer.