BY CHRISTA SGOBBA
You know that carrying around extra weight is bad news for your heart. But your gut might be warning you about something else just as serious: cancer.
Your waist measurement may predict your cancer risk, a new meta-analysis in the British Journal of Cancer suggests.
After crunching the data from seven separate studies comprising 43,000 people, the researchers concluded that people with waist sizes just four inches above the average—which was about 36 inches, including both men and women—were 13 percent more likely to develop an obesity-related cancer during the 12-year follow-up.
The obesity-related cancers that would affect men include colorectal, lower oesophagus, upper stomach, liver, gallbladder, and kidney.
The increased risk of certain cancers kicks in at about 40 inches for men, study author Heinz Freisling, Ph.D., told The Guardian.
Researchers also discovered that body mass index (BMI), hip circumference, and hip-to-waist ratio were also helpful at predicting obesity-related cancers.
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“To better reflect the underlying biology at play, we think it’s important to study more than just BMI when looking at cancer risk,” Freisling said in a press release. “And our research adds further understanding to how people’s body shape could increase their risk.”
So how might waist circumference be particularly telling? It’s a good marker of central obesity, or how much fat you have hanging out around your abdomen. This fat, often referred to as visceral fat, is thought to be more harmful.
Too much fat might drive cancer development by a number of different potential pathways. For instance, it can cause insulin levels to rise, and trigger chronic, low-grade inflammation, the researchers say.