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Obesity linked to liver cancer, gallbladder cancer

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By David Liu, PHD

Monday Sept 17, 2012 (foodconsumer.org) -- General obesity has been positively linked with risk of liver cancer and probably biliary tract cancer as well.  A new study in International Journal of Cancer confirms the positive association between obesity, particularly abdominal obesity or weight gain during adulthood and risk of liver cancer and gallbladder cancer.

Sabrina Schlesinger at  Section of Epidemiology, Institute of Experimental Medicine, Christian-Albrechts University of Kiel in Kiel, Germany and colleagues conducted the study and found men and women in the highest tertile of waist-to-hip and waist-to-height ratio were 2.5 times as likely as those in the lowest tertile to be diagnosed with liver cancer and An increase of one unit of waist-to-hip and waist-to-height ratio was correlated with 56 percent more likely to be diagnosed with gallbladder cancer.

For the study, Schlesinger et al.  attempted to associate weight, body mass index, waist and hip circumference, waist-to-hip and waist-to-height ratio, weight change during adulthood and risk of hepatocellular carcinoma (liver cancer), intrahepatic and extrahepatic bile duct system cancer including gallbladder cancer (gallbladder cancer) among 359,525 men and women enrolled in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition study.   

Among the participants, 177 cases of liver cancer, 58 cases of intrahepatic bile duct cancer, and extrahepatic bile duct system cancer including 76 cases of gallbladder cancer were identified during a follow-up of mean 8.6 years.

The researchers found all anthropometric measures positively associated with risk of liver cancer and gallbladder cancer.  And the strongest association was found between the waist-to-hip and waist-to-height ratio and risk of these two cancers.

Additionally, men and women in the highest tertile of weight gain during adulthood was also correlated with 148 percent increased risk of liver cancer, compared with those in the lowest tertile.

However, obesity was not statistically significantly associated with risk of intrahepatic bile duct cancer, and extrahepatic bile duct system cancer.

The researchers concluded "Our results provide evidence of an association between obesity, particularly abdominal obesity, and risk of HCC (liver cancer) and GBC (gallbladder cancer). Our findings support public health recommendations to reduce the prevalence of obesity and weight gain in adulthood for HCC and GBC prevention in Western populations."

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