by Alison McAleese, LiveLighter Victoria Campaign Manager and Dietitian

Obesity and cancer

Maintaining a healthy weight is an important way to reduce your risk of cancer, with obesity now linked to more cancer types than ever before.

A recent review of more than a thousand studies by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has found that being overweight or obese increases risk for at least 13 types of cancer.

It was previously known that being overweight or obese increased risk of five cancers: colorectal; uterine; kidney; breast cancer in postmenopausal women; and adenocarcinoma of the oesophagus.

The latest review, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, adds a further eight cancers to the list: liver; gastric cardia (part of the stomach); gallbladder; pancreas; thyroid; ovary; multiple myeloma (a blood cancer) and meningioma (a type of brain tumour).

Chairman of the working group, Dr Graham Colditz, told the New York Times that the 13 cancers together accounted for 42% of all new cancer diagnoses. He said only smoking came close as a preventable risk factor for cancer, underlining the importance of keeping off excess weight.

So we know it’s important, but how do you avoid those extra kilos? Here are our top tips.

1. Cut out sugary drinks

They contain sugar your body does not need, and a lot of it! Many people are shocked to learn that a 600ml bottle of soft drink contains a whopping 16 teaspoons of sugar. Those unnecessary kilojoules can lead to weight gain and obesity.

2. Limit junk food

Pizzas, fried foods, potato chips, pies and pastries are not your friends. It’s best to limit these foods by regarding them as treats. Check out our calculator to see if they're sneaking into your daily diet. You might be surprised! If you’re eating out, check out our tips on ordering healthier options.

3. Eat more vegetables instead

Most Australians eat only half the recommended amount of vegetables and fruit – that’s five serves of vegies and two serves of fruit each day. Tucking into fruit and veg in all colours of the rainbow will provide a mix of nutrients and keep the junk food cravings at bay. We've got heaps of ideas about how to get more in your day here.

4. Let's get physical!

Aiming for 30 minutes of exercise each day is an important way for adults aged 18-64 to reduce their risk of obesity. Keep it interesting with a mix of activities, from a weights workout at the gym to a swim session in the pool or a yoga class. You don’t need a gym membership either – our resident fitness guru Margarita has some effective exercises you can do pretty much anywhere.

5. Any exercise is better than none

If you’re not physically active, start by doing something and gradually build up to the recommended amount. Build physical activity into your day by getting off the bus a few stops earlier and walking the rest of the way, or take the stairs instead of the lift at work. Watch these funny tips on how to be more active from Aussie comedian Damian Callinan.

For more information and tips visit

Originally published 15th November 2016 in Cut Your Cancer Risk