New research has shown that those who are overweight in their twenties and continue to gain weight as they age are more likely to develop cancer of either the esophagus or upper stomach.
Carried out by researchers from the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, the large-scale study looked at data from more than 409,796 people, analyzing participants' reported height and weight at ages 20, 50, and at the time that the information was given.
Participants were then followed up to see who developed cancer of either the esophagus or upper stomach later in life.
The results showed that those who first reported being overweight at the age of 20 were around 60-80 percent more likely to develop these cancers in later life, compared to those who maintained a healthy weight throughout life.
Commenting on the significance of the findings, study leader Dr. Jessica Petrick said, "This study highlights how weight gain over the course of our lives can increase the risk of developing these two cancer types, both of which have extremely poor survival."
"Carrying excess weight can trigger long-term reflux problems and heartburn that can lead to cancer. It can also change the levels of sex hormones, such as oestrogen and testosterone, cause levels of insulin to rise, and lead to inflammation, all of which are factors that have been associated with increased cancer risk."
Sarah Williams, health information manager at Cancer Research UK, added, "This study further highlights the importance of keeping a healthy weight throughout life to reduce the risk of developing these cancers. Small steps like taking the stairs more often, keeping an eye on portion sizes and switching to sugar-free drinks are simple things we can all do to help keep a healthy weight."