EXCESS WEIGHT and obesity are linked to around one in every 25 cancers in Ireland, a major international study reveals today.
About 3.9pc - the equivalent of 1,170 of the roughly 30,000 cancers in Ireland annually - are caused by excess body weight, leaving us near the top of the European league table along with the Netherlands and Luxembourg.
The highest rate in Europe is found in the Czech Republic at 5.5pc followed by the UK and Malta where it is 4.4pc, the findings in the 'Lancet Oncology' medical journal reveal.
About 7.1pc of cancers in Irish women are due to these risk factors, the International Agency for Research on Cancer showed.
Lead researchers Dr Melina Arnold estimated that a quarter of all obesity-related cancers in 2012 were linked to the rising average body mass index (BMI) in the population since 1982, and were therefore "realistically avoidable".
The association between weight and cancer is due to various factors including the increased levels of insulin in obese people which can promote the development of some tumours. Fat cells also produce hormones that can stimulate cell growth.
The study of 184 countries found weight causes about 481,000 new cancer cases a year globally in adults - or 3.6pc of cancers worldwide.
The burden is far higher in more developed countries, with almost two-thirds (64pc) of these obesity-related cancers occurring in North America and Europe.
The findings reveal that obesity-related cancer is a greater problem for women than men, largely due to disease in the womb and uterus as well as post-menopausal breast cancers.
In men, excess weight was responsible for 1.9pc or 136,000 new cancers in 2012 - in women it was 5.4pc or 345,000 new cases.
Post-menopausal breast, endometrial and colon cancers were responsible for almost three-quarters of the obesity-related cancer burden in women. In men, colon and kidney cancers accounted for over two-thirds of all obesity-related cancers.
North America contributed by far the most cases with 111,000 cancers - equivalent to almost a quarter (23pc) of all new obesity-related cancers globally. Within Europe, the burden was largest in eastern Europe.
Dr Arnold said: "Our findings add support for a global effort to address the rising trends in obesity. The global prevalence of obesity in adults has doubled since 1980.
"If this trend continues, it will certainly boost the future burden of cancer, particularly in South America and North Africa, where the largest increases in the rate of obesity have been seen over the last 30 years."
A separate 'Lancet' study on survival rates, the CONCORD-2 study, found that within Europe, cervical cancer survival was 60pc or less in Ireland, the UK, France, Latvia, and four eastern European countries with very little improvement seen over the past 15 years.
Meanwhile, new Eurostat statistics confirmed the rate of deaths from lung cancer rose in Ireland between 2002 to 2011, up from 19.6pc to 21.3pc of the rate of total fatal cancers.
Deaths from bowel cancer have remained stable at 12pc, while deaths from breast cancer have fallen very slightly. Pancreatic cancer deaths increased slightly.
Cancer represented almost a quarter - 23.8pc - of all causes of death for people aged 65 and over in the EU28 in 2011.