View all news

New analysis shows that causal role of high BMI in deaths from cancer may be underestimated

Richard Martin

11 September 2019

A new paper by ICEP researcher Prof Richard Martin and colleagues shows that the causal role of high body mass index (BMI) in deaths from cancer may be higher than previously thought.

Earlier studies have shown that high BMI is associated with mortality, but the problems of confounding and reverse causality in observational studies make it difficult to be certain about the direction and magnitude of causal effects.

To overcome these problems, the researchers carried out two-sample instrumental variable (IV) analyses on data from around 2 million Swedish parents and their sons. The analyses support the causal role of higher BMI and greater risk of 11 cancers in women and 9 cancers in men.

Of particular interest is the effect of BMI on death from prostate and lung cancers, since findings from previous studies have been inconsistent. The findings from this study support the view that the causal role of high BMI in deaths from prostate and lung cancers may be underestimated.

The authors point out the need to reduce obesity levels in order to prevent cancer.

The study is published in PLOS Medicine.   

Edit this page