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Study Finds Link Between Obesity, Cancer Screening

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The rate of cancer screening for certain types of cancer increases with body weight, according to a new study published in the Journal of Obesity.

Researchers at the Thomas Jefferson University analyzed data from previous studies and found obesity was linked to higher rates of prostate cancer screening, and also linked to lower rates of cervical cancer screening.

“Numerous studies have suggested that obesity constitutes an obstacle to cancer screening, but a deeper examination also considering the role of race/ethnicity and gender in the equation has not been done before,” said Heather Bittner Fagan, associate professor of Thomas Jefferson University, and head author of the study.

For women, increased weight was consistently associated with lower rates of Pap smear use, particularly among white women. In contrast, prostate cancer screening levels were consistently shown to increase with weight. In three of four studies, obese men were more likely to receive a prostate specific antigens test than men of normal weight.

“A greater understanding of the relationship between cancer screening and obesity, race/ethnicity and gender can also help explain the association between obesity and increased cancer mortality,” she said

“This could be explained by differences in access and utilization of health care; as weight increased so do other comorbid conditions, making heavier men higher users of health care and perhaps more encouraged to be tested by their health care provider,” explains Dr. Richrd Wender, professor at Thomas Jefferson University, and author of the study.

The study also showed that obesity showed no increase of mammography testing among white women, but increased testing among black women.

Obesity is the second leading cause of death in the United States. A 2008  Journal of the American Medical Association report found, one third of adult Americans were obese, raising the chances of having severe health conditions, such as hypertension, heart disease and cancer.

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