Obesity and Cancer

Obesity is a chronic relapsing disease that acts as a gateway to other noncommunicable diseases and has been linked with an increased risk of developing several types of the most common cancers such as breast, ovary, liver and colon cancer. EASO are invested in working with key EU stakeholders to ensure that the ‘Europe Beating Cancer’ Plan goes beyond primary prevention initiatives for obesity.

Obesity is a chronic relapsing disease that acts as a gateway to other noncommunicable diseases and has been linked with an increased risk of developing several types of the most common cancers such as breast, ovary, liver and colon cancer. In addition, there is evidence to support that obesity has a wider impact on cancer progression, treatment efficacy, quality of life, survivorship and likelihood of recurrence.

Overall, Europe accounts for 25% of the world’s cancer cases and the percentage of new cancer cases attributable to overweight and obesity is higher in Europe than the global average.

In 2021 the EU commission put forward the ‘Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan’ forward as a renewal of the EU’s commitment to cancer prevention, treatment and care. The Plan aims to tackle the entire disease pathway from knowledge to care and beyond and is structured around four key action areas:

  • Prevention:addressing key risk factors such as tobacco and alcohol consumption, obesity, environmental pollution, and hazardous substances.
  • Early detection:improving access, quality and diagnostics; ensuring that 90% of the EU population who qualify for breast, cervical, and colorectal cancer screenings can access them by 2025.
  • Diagnosis and treatment:ensuring better integrated and comprehensive cancer care and addressing unequal access to quality care and medicines.
  • Improve quality of life of cancer patients and survivors:including rehabilitation, potential tumour recurrence, metastatic disease, and measures to support social integration and re-integration in the workplace.

In regard to obesity as a key risk factor, the Plan is currently focused on initiatives that will address unhealthy diets and inactivity. It is EASO’s intention to work with relevant stakeholders to ensure the plan is updated and initiatives frequently reviewed to ensure the initiatives implemented aligns with the European Commission’s recent categorisation of obesity as a chronic relapsing disease and the strategy is rooted in a whole-systems approach to obesity.  By putting in place measures that go beyond primary prevention of obesity and in turn provide long-term management of obesity along the life course it is possible to prevent over 20% of these cancer cases.

Resources

For further information on the link between obesity and cancer, as well as EASO’s continued work to ensure obesity remains a key priority, please explore the below resources:

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