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Excess body fat is believed to be linked with about one-third of cancers, including those of the gastrointestinal tract, reproductive organs, urinary tract, blood, bone, spleen and thyroid, the New York University researchers noted.
In the new study, the investigators examined whether healthy habits included in cancer prevention guidelines from the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research might reduce the risk for certain cancers.
The study involved analysis of long-term medical and dietary data from nearly 3,000 American men and women. Between 1991 and 2008, 480 obesity-related cancers were diagnosed among the participants.
The study wasn't designed to prove cause-and-effect, only an association. And after accounting for age, smoking and other factors that might contribute to cancer risk, overall adherence to the guidelines was not tied with a lower risk of obesity-related cancers, the researchers said.
However, one of the guidelines -- to limit alcoholic drinks to two per day for men and one per day for women -- did protect against obesity-related cancers overall, and against breast, prostate and colorectal cancers specifically.
The researchers also found that eating more fruits, vegetables and legumes was associated with a lower risk of colon cancer.
"Based on the study's results, dietary advice on preventing cancer should emphasize the importance of eating a plant-based diet and restricting alcohol consumption," study senior author Niyati Parekh, associate professor of nutrition and public health, said in a university news release.
The research is published in the Jan. 6 issue of the journal Cancer Causes & Control.
-- Robert Preidt
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