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Obesity and cancer, a new webinar from the ESMO-IARC partnership

ESMO continues its commitment to improve cancer prevention worldwide through the collaboration with IARC 

11 Dec 2020

The European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) renews its commitment to improve cancer prevention worldwide and announces a new webinar as part of the World Cancer Report Updates learning platform series in collaboration with the WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). The webinar is scheduled for 14 December at 16.00 CET and will be focused on obesity and cancer, a topic which is extremely relevant in these pandemic times.

Between 30-50% of all cancers are preventable, and the population’s level of physical activity and eating habits play a role in this regard. To provide an example, observational studies have shown that high versus low levels of time spent sitting are related to a 24% higher risk of cancer incidence (Ann Intern Med. 162(2):123–32). The second live webinar of the World Cancer Report Updates Learning Platform series will focus on how the obesity–cancer link can be effectively tackled with the aim of understanding what can be done both individually and as a society.

Statistics released by the World Health Organisation (WHO) report that one in four adults, and four out of five adolescents, do not practice enough physical activity. Unfortunately, the situation seems to have worsened due to the Covid-19 pandemic. “With people being confined for long periods and sports and physical activities being restricted, there is a high risk of a surge in obesity in the general population", stresses Solange Peters, ESMO President. "Given the link between obesity and several types of cancer, in the longer term, the increase in the incidence of this risk factor is unfortunately likely to result a marked increase in cancer cases.”

As a testimony of the impact of Covid-19 on behavioral risk factors, a recent research run in the UK reported negative changes in eating and physical activity behaviours and barriers to weight management experienced by the study’s participants compared to before the lockdown. These trends were particularly pronounced among participants with higher body mass index (BMI) (Appetite. 156:104853).

While there is considerable epidemiological evidence supporting the association between being overweight, obesity, and cancer risk, there is also a clear indication that individual actions combined with policy approaches can achieve the greatest positive impact for a healthy diet and physical activity across a population. This is further sustained by the proof that physical activity is associated with a reduced risk of 13 cancer types (World Cancer Report: Cancer Research for Cancer Prevention 2020).

We, as oncologists, have an obligation to know more and do more about behavioural risk factors, and play our role in cancer prevention.

Solange Peters, ESMO President

"We all need to do more to counter the rise of unhealthy lifestyle choices," says Dr Peters. “Obesity is strongly related to the development of most gastrointestinal cancers, such as that of the colorectum, gastric cardia, oesophageal adenocarcinoma and pancreas as well as 9 other cancer types."

Considering that 29.4 million cancer cases are expected by 2040 (+66.7% since 2018), but 30-50% of all cancers are preventable, ESMO is proud to support and collaborate with IARC on the World Cancer Report Updates learning platform, integrating all research for cancer prevention.

The World Cancer Report Updates Learning Platform offers freely accessible learning material based on selected content from the World Cancer Report, the most important resource on cancer prevention published by the IARC every five years. With this joint project with IARC, ESMO is calling each and every member to take advantage of this resource, to ensure that oncologists become knowledgeable in prevention, ready to commit to provide guidance and act as role models.

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