National Institute for Health Research Biomedical Research Centre
Our Research: Cancer Prevention and Early Detection

Obesity-related cancers

Did you know that 1 in 20 cancers in the UK are linked to being overweight? How will our research empower people to protect themselves against cancer, in the context of a rising obesity epidemic?

Over the next 20 years the increase in obesity is expected to result in around 670,000 new cases of cancer.  By 2035, 72% of UK adults are predicted to be overweight or obese (up from 62% in 2014), with the majority being from low income households.

Through our research we are:

  • Identifying those individuals most at risk by better characterising observable features associated with obesity related cancer.
  • Studying the use of non-invasive imaging to measure fat deposition within organs to predict risk and monitor response to weight loss interventions.
  • Evaluating the effectiveness of different communication approaches to support weight gain prevention programmes.

The research in this programme will be supported by the Informatics & Data Sciences crossing-cutting theme.

Progress to date

  • New project examining the influence of weight gain on breast cancer risk, using the population from the PROCAS study (see programme 1).
  • PhD student working on modelling how “exposure” to obesity over life course and at specific points of life can impact risk of developing cancer (ABACUS).
  • Prospectively analysing changes in liver fat and liver injury relating to pre-operative chemotherapy (CLiFF study). Ectopic fat deposition has been proposed as an important factor in the development of obesity-related cancers; this study will evaluate the potential mechanisms relevant to the development and early detection of obesity-related cancers.