Cancer is a widespread disease that can have many causes – genes, unhealthy lifestyle, cigarette smoking. A risk factor that many people tend to neglect is weight. Very few people even know about the connection between tumor formation and too many pounds, said the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), the German Cancer Aid and the German Cancer Society (DKG) in Heidelberg on Monday. They demand better conditions so that people can maintain or achieve a healthy body weight more easily.

Almost seven percent of new cancer cases in Germany were caused by overweight, especially obesity. “This means that every year around 30,000 people in Germany develop cancer due to their obesity. That is 30,000 preventable cancer cases,” emphasized DKFZ boss Michael Baumann on the occasion of the 5th National Cancer Prevention Week from September 25th to 29th.

Breast cancer after menopause and colon cancer occur significantly more frequently in obese people than in people of normal weight. In the case of uterine and kidney cancer or carcinoma of the esophagus, almost half of all cases are caused by obesity.

As a first step, the specialist societies are calling for advertising restrictions for products that are particularly conducive to obesity, as well as higher taxes on foods high in fat and sugar. The three organizations want to use a social media campaign to promote “less obesity, less risk of cancer”.

Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) welcomed the initiative. “By eliminating or, even better, avoiding these risk factors through a healthy diet and sufficient exercise, we not only reduce the risk of cancer, but also of cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and joint diseases.”

From the perspective of the German Cancer Aid, it is not easy to eat a balanced diet in a world full of temptation from high-calorie foods. Its boss Gerd Nettekoven emphasized: “The prevention of obesity must begin in childhood, because this is where excess weight often has its origins.” Therefore, advertising aimed at children for foods that promote obesity must be banned, as the traffic light coalition has already announced. A “healthy value-added tax” is also conceivable: taxes on foods high in sugar, fat and salt would have to be increased, but taxes on fruit and vegetables would have to be eliminated. Consumer-friendly nutritional labels and balanced nutritional offerings in schools are also helpful.

According to experts, Germany is lagging behind other European countries when it comes to prevention. England and France, for example, tax heavily sugared lemonades, and Portugal bans advertising of unhealthy foods aimed at children. “In Germany we have an urgent need for action,” summarized Michael Ghadimi, President of the German Cancer Society.

The increased risk of tumor formation in overweight people comes, among other things, from the abdominal fat surrounding the internal organs. It produces many inflammatory messenger substances, the experts explained. If they are permanently elevated, chronic inflammation can occur, which has a cancer-promoting effect. The fat cells in the body also produce the sex hormone estrogen, which can stimulate cancer cells to grow. In addition, permanently increased insulin production in overweight people can drive the growth of cancer cells.