Body Weight and Cancer Risk

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Excess body weight: A major health issue in America

For many people, the modern American lifestyle has led them to eat more unhealthy foods, eat bigger food portions, and be less physically active. As a result, the number of Americans who are overweight or obese (very overweight) has been rising. About 1 in 3 American adults is now obese, and another 1 in 3 is overweight.

Being overweight or obese can have far-reaching health consequences. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), excess body weight increases the risk for:

  • Heart disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol levels
  • Stroke
  • Liver and gallbladder disease
  • Sleep apnea and respiratory problems
  • Arthritis
  • Abnormal menstrual periods and infertility in women
  • Certain cancers

Overweight and obese people, on average, do not live as long as people who stay at a healthy body weight throughout their lives.

Not only are more adults overweight or obese, but more children are, too. Among children and teens, about 17% (or 12.5 million) are obese, a rate that has almost tripled since 1980. Some of the same health problems affecting obese adults can also affect obese children. These include heart disease risk factors such as high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure, as well as asthma, sleep apnea, type 2 diabetes, muscle and joint problems, and liver disease. Obese children and teens are also at higher risk for social and psychological problems, such as discrimination and poor self-esteem.

Obese children and teens are more likely to be obese as adults. Most overweight children and teens will be overweight or obese as adults, too.


Last Medical Review: 01/30/2013
Last Revised: 01/30/2013