A review of research into the links between bowel cancer and body fat has shown that carrying fat around your waist is particularly harmful.
The review, carried out on behalf of World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) by researchers from Imperial College London and the University of Leeds, has updated the findings of WCRF's landmark 2007 report, which found convincing evidence that being overweight increases bowel cancer risk.
But research published since then has increasingly shown abdominal fatness - fat around the waist - is particularly harmful for bowel cancer.
The new evidence that is emerging suggests that fat around the waist may increase bowel cancer risk even in people who are close to normal weight or only moderately overweight.
The results of the review were presented at WCRF's international scientific conference in London on Monday.
The latest findings have further strengthened the evidence that being overweight is an important risk factor for bowel cancer. WCRF recommends people aim to be as lean as possible without becoming underweight.
Professor Martin Wiseman, Medical and Scientific Adviser for WCRF, said: "This latest study adds to the already strong evidence that carrying excess body fat increases your risk of cancer.
"In fact, scientists now say that, after not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight is the most important thing you can do for cancer prevention.
"We estimate that more than 2,700 cases of bowel cancer a year in the UK could be prevented through people maintaining a healthy weight.
"But as well as confirming the link between body fat and bowel cancer, this study has strengthened the evidence that where we carry the fat is also important. This means that people who do have a large waist should consider losing weight even if they are in the normal BMI range."
Dr Teresa Norat, the Lead Researcher for the study, said: "This study indicates that people should pay attention to the abdominal fatness even in they are in the normal range of weight, and it confirms that being overweight increases risk of this type of cancer.
"This study gives us a better picture on how body fat affects risk of bowel cancer. More research is needed to understand how abdominal fatness can be prevented in both normal and overweight individuals."
About 38,500 cases of bowel cancer are diagnosed in the UK every year. WCRF recommends aiming to be as lean as possible without becoming underweight.
For more information contact:
Richard Evans on 020 7343 4253.
Notes to editors:
World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) raises awareness that cancer is largely preventable and helps people make choices to reduce their chances of developing the disease.
This includes funding scientific research into how cancer risk is related to diet, physical activity, and weight management, and education programmes that highlight the fact that about a third of the most common cancers could be prevented through changes to lifestyle.
The WCRF report, called Food, Nutrition, Physical Activity, and the Prevention of Cancer: a Global Perspective, is the most comprehensive report ever published on the subject and can be downloaded at www.dietandcancerreport.org
For more information about WCRF, visit our website at www.wcrf-uk.org; follow us on Twitter at http://twitter.com/wcrf_uk, read our blog at http://blog.wcrf-uk.org or visit our Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/wcrfuk
WCRF UK is part of the global network of charities dedicated to the prevention of cancer. The WCRF global network is led and unified by WCRF International, a membership association which operates as the umbrella organisation for the network. The other charities in the WCRF network are American Institute for Cancer Research in the US (www.aicr.org); Wereld Kanker Onderzoek Fonds in the Netherlands (www.wcrf-nl.org); World Cancer Research Fund Hong Kong (www.wcrf-hk.org); and Fonds Mondial de Recherche contre le Cancer in France (www.fmrc.fr).