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Fat bellies raise risk of cancer

Older adults who are heavy, especially around the middle, seem to have a higher risk of colon cancer than their thinner peers -- and exercise may lower the incidence of the disease, especially for women, a European study said.

More than 120,000 adults in the Netherlands aged 55 to 69 were followed for 16 years by the study, published in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

During that time, about 2pc developed colorectal cancer, tumours of the colon and/or rectum.

The risk was 25 pc higher for men who were significantly overweight or obese.

"The study provides further evidence that excess body fat may contribute to a higher risk of colorectal cancer," said lead researcher Laura Hughes, at Maastricht University.

For men, waist size seemed to matter most. Men with the biggest bellies had a 63pc greater risk of cancer than men who were trim.

Among women, though, a large waistline was only linked to a higher cancer risk in women who also got little exercise, defined as less than 30 minutes a day.