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Adopting or maintaining a healthy lifestyle after cancer has the potential to reduce both cancer- and non-cancer-related morbidity. Preventing excess body weight and obesity can enhance the length and health-related quality of life of cancer survivors, and it can reduce the risk of developing cancers that have been linked to excess body weight, including colorectal, breast (among women who have gone through menopause), uterine, esophageal, renal cell (kidney), and pancreatic cancer.
As the number of cancer survivors grows and expected survival time increases, the health behaviors of these individuals are becoming an important focus of attention. Examination of survivors and obesity is new to the Cancer Trends Progress Report this year.
Rates of obesity among cancer survivors are based on the self-reporting of individuals with a cancer history, who are interviewed as part of the annual population-based National Health Interview Survey (NHIS). These weight groups are defined by a measurement called body mass index (BMI), which is calculated by dividing weight in kilograms by height in meters squared. For most adults, experts consider a BMI of 30 and over to be obese.
Healthy People 2020 Target
Although Healthy People 2020 has no target for obesity among cancer survivors, it does have nutrition and health status targets regarding obesity in the general population, including:
- Increase to 33.9 percent the proportion of adults who are at a healthy weight.
- Reduce to 30.5 percent the proportion of adults who are obese.
- Reduce the proportion of children and adolescents who are considered obese.
There is also a Healthy People 2020 objective to increase the mental and physical health-related quality of life of cancer survivors.
Healthy People 2020 is a set of goals set forth by the Department of Health and Human Services.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. National Health Interview Survey, 1992–2015.
Obesity Among Cancer Survivors
Compared to Remaining U.S. Population
|Overview graph||Age Group||Cancer Survivor||Remaining U.S. Population|
|Percent of population||Confidence Interval||Percent of population||Confidence Interval|
|Ages 18 and older||30.7||(29.4 - 32.1)||27.8||(27.5 - 28.2)|
Additional Information on Cancer Survivors and Obesity
For the Public
- Cancer Survivors Network. American Cancer Society.
- Survivorship: During and After Treatment. American Cancer Society.
- Take Control of Your Weight. American Cancer Society.
- Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Overweight and Obesity. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Physical Activity for a Healthy Weight. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Body Mass Index Table. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
- How Are Overweight and Obesity Treated? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
- Journey Forward.
- Facing Forward: Life After Cancer Treatment. National Cancer Institute.
- Health and Well-Being After Cancer. National Cancer Institute, Office of Cancer Survivorship.
- Living Beyond Cancer. National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship.
For health professionals
- Screening for and Management of Obesity in Adults (June 2012). U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.
- Screening for Obesity in Children and Adolescents (January 2010). U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.
- Health behaviors of cancer survivors: examining opportunities for cancer control intervention. Bellizzi KM, Rowland JH, Jeffery DD, McNeel T. J Clin Oncol 2005;23(34):8884–93.
- Cancer survivors’ adherence to lifestyle behavior recommendations and associations with health-related quality of life: results from the American Cancer Society’s SCS-II. Blanchard CM, Courneya KS, Stein, K. J Clin Oncol 2008;26(13):2198–2204.
- Promoting health and physical function among cancer survivors: potential for prevention and questions that remain. Demark-Wahnefried W, Pinto BM, Gritz ER. J Clin Oncol 2006;24(32):5125–31.
- Prevalence of obesity and trends in the distribution of body mass index among US adults, 1999–2010. Flegal KM, Carroll MD, Kit BK, and Ogden CL. JAMA 2012;307(5):491–7.
- Health behaviors influence cancer survival. Gritz ER, Demark-Wahnefried W. J Clin Oncol 2009;27(12):1930–2.
- The role of physical activity in cancer prevention, treatment, recovery, and survivorship. Lemanne D, Cassileth B, Gubili J. Oncology 2013;27(6):580–5.
- The Role of Obesity in Cancer Survival and Recurrence: Workshop Summary. National Cancer Policy Forum, Board on Health Care Services, Institute of Medicine. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2012 Apr 3.