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Obese teens 'face bowel cancer risk'

27 May 2015 09:01

Being overweight as a teenager increases the risk of bowel cancer, research suggests

Being overweight as a teenager increases the risk of bowel cancer, research suggests

Being overweight as a teenager increases the risk of bowel cancer in later life, research suggests.

A study led by Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, Massachusetts reveals very overweight or obese teenagers are twice as likely to develop the disease in middle age compared with their slimmer peers.

While adult obesity has long been associated with an increased risk of bowel cancer, this investigation touches upon how child obesity can also lead to an increased risk.


Bowel cancer is the fourth most common form of cancer in the UK.

Around 40,000 new cases are diagnosed every year, while one in 20 people will develop the condition during their lifetime.

As with most cancers, treatment depends on where the cancer is in the bowel and how far it has spread.

But a diagnosis does not mean people have to stop going on holiday.

Medical travel insurance offers access to 24/7 support and emergency assistance, providing the peace of mind needed to enjoy a trip abroad.

Greater risk

The team at Harvard School of Public Health looked at the records of 240,000 men born between 1952 and 1956 who underwent a compulsory conscription assessment for the Swedish military in their late teens.

Some 81% were of normal weight at the time of conscription, while 1.5% were very overweight and nearly 1% were obese.

A follow-up 35 years later revealed 885 had been diagnosed with bowel cancer.

Those who were in the very overweight group had a 2.08-fold higher risk of developing the condition, while those in the obese group had a 2.38-fold greater risk.

Very overweight was classed as having a body mass index (BMI) of 27.5 to 30.

Obesity is commonly defined as a BMI of 30 or more, while people with a BMI of 25 or more are considered overweight.

The data was published in the journal Gut.