A recent study from Scotland found that obesity is a major cause of early death in women. The study followed over 15,000 people for 28 years, but focused specifically on 3,600 women aged 45 – 64, who did not have a history of smoking.
During the course of the study, half of these women died, with 916 (51 percent) from cardiovascular disease and 487 (27 percent) from cancer. The highest death rates were found in the women who were severely obese, while women who were not obese had the lowest death rates. Also of note, women of a low socio-economic status were more likely to be severely obese than women with more financial resources.
The findings also demonstrated that women who never smoked were much more likely to be overweight or obese than those who smoked, suggesting that the higher smoking rates of previous decades may have concealed the extent of obesity in non-smoking women, and that recent drops in smoking rates may have fueled the growth in obesity rates.
Dr. Gregg Jossart, bariatric surgeon and Director of Minimally Invasive Surgery at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco, spoke with us about the study. He told us that it has been known for many years that there is an increased mortality from being obese; however, the reason for death has not been very clear. Dr. Jossart said “This study really points out that cancers are a significant source of death in the obese population. Both obese patients and doctors taking care of obese patients should be aware that they are at an increased risk of developing breast, colon, kidney, uterine and other cancers. These at-risk patients should be screened more aggressively and at younger ages.”
Dr. Jossart concluded that “the good news is that reducing weight, either through surgery or non-surgical methods, has been shown to decrease the risk of cancer.”