When the Independent Group of Experts who make up the European Commission’s Cancer Mission Board published their interim report recently, it should have been a very welcome document to the obesity scientific, clinical and patient communities.
However, we must register our deep disappointment and astonishment that obesity is not once mentioned in the Interim report despite a large body of scientific evidence that obesity is a gateway disease that is convincingly associated with increased risks of several forms of cancer. To stand a chance of effectively beating cancer, it is imperative that we take a joined up approach in chronic disease prevention, treatment and management from research through to policy and practice. Gateway chronic diseases such as obesity must be addressed robustly, and based on the most recent scientific evidence in collaboration and consultation with experts from the discipline. This has not been the case.
Obesity is defined as “dysfunctional/ abnormal or excessive adiposity leading to bad health”. Both the WHO and the European Medicines Agency have already recognised obesity as a chronic disease and a gateway disease to over 200 complications including certain cancers and other chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.
There is consistent evidence that people living with obesity have an increased risk of developing several types of cancer. In fact, 20% of cancers can be prevented through effective treatment of obesity. It is not only having more fat mass that causes comorbidities or complications but the lack of muscle mass while being overweight i.e. sarcopenic obesity. This can have a significant impact on patients, impacting cancer progression, treatment efficacy, quality of life, survivorship and likelihood of recurrence. This is particularly important in Europe, as the percentage of new cancer cases attributable to overweight and obesity is higher in this region than the global average. Currently 224 million people are affected by overweight or obesity in Europe.
Notably, in the recent European Commission Communication on short-term EU health preparedness for future COVID-19 outbreaks obesity is specifically noted within Chapter 5: Support to Vulnerable Groups as:
“Certain groups are more vulnerable to the virus than others. This relates to three categories: (1) medically vulnerable – such as the elderly and those with underlying health conditions (e.g. hypertension, diabetes, obesity, etc.)”
As such, we kindly and urgently request that all of the above elements are duly incorporated into the next iteration of the Cancer Mission Board Report and subsequent inputs into the Beating Cancer Plan (DG Santé) and related policy initiatives at European level (Multi-Annual Financial Framework EU4Health etc.). EASO stands ready, willing and very able to share our expertise on obesity and cancer along the continuum of primary, secondary and tertiary prevention of cancers as well as improving cancer treatments and prognosis for people already living with obesity at the onset of cancer.
For further information please contact:
Jacqueline Bowman-Busato | EASO Policy Lead | [email protected] | +32 468 222 386