Cancer Survivors and Weight

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In 2018, 31.5% of cancer survivors aged 20 years and older were obese.

Summary graph for Cancer Survivors and Weight, Click to see detailed view of graph

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Introduction

Adopting or maintaining a healthy lifestyle after cancer has the potential to reduce both cancer- and non-cancer-related morbidity. Preventing excess body weight and obesity can enhance the length and health-related quality of life of cancer survivors, and it can reduce the risk of developing cancers that have been linked to excess body weight, including colorectal, breast (among women who have gone through menopause), uterine, esophageal, renal cell (kidney), and pancreatic cancer.

As the number of cancer survivors grows and expected survival time increases, the health behaviors of these individuals are becoming an important focus of attention. 

Measure

Rates of obesity among cancer survivors are based on the self-reporting of individuals with a cancer history, who are interviewed as part of the annual population-based National Health Interview Survey (NHIS). These weight groups are defined by a measurement called body mass index (BMI), which is calculated by dividing weight in kilograms by height in meters squared. For most adults, experts consider a BMI of 30 and over to be obese.

Healthy People 2020 Target

Although Healthy People 2020 has no target for obesity among cancer survivors, it does have nutrition and health status targets regarding obesity in the general population, including:

  • Increase to 33.9 percent the proportion of adults who are at a healthy weight.
  • Reduce to 30.5 percent the proportion of adults who are obese.

There is also a Healthy People 2020 objective to increase the mental and physical health-related quality of life of cancer survivors.

Healthy People 2020 is a set of goals set forth by the Department of Health and Human Services.
Note: Goals are indicated as blue line on Detailed Trend Graphs.

Data Source

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Health Statistics. National Health Interview Survey, 1992–2018.

Trends and Most Recent EstimatesHelp with navigating the graphs and data tables

Overweight

By Sex
Percentage of cancer survivors aged 20 years and older who were overweight by sex, 1992-2018
Overview Graph Detailed Trend Graphs Most Recent Estimates (2018)
Percent of cancer survivors 95% Confidence Interval
Thumbnail of graph for Percentage of cancer survivors aged 20 years and older who were overweight by sex, 1992-2018 Both SexesClick to see the detailed trend graph for Both Sexes 35.6 33.2 - 38.0
MaleClick to see the detailed trend graph for Male 40.8 36.6 - 45.1
FemaleClick to see the detailed trend graph for Female 31.3 28.5 - 34.3
By Time Since Cancer Diagnosis
Percentage of cancer survivors aged 20 years and older who were overweight by time since cancer diagnosis, 1992-2018
Overview Graph Detailed Trend Graphs Most Recent Estimates (2018)
Percent of cancer survivors 95% Confidence Interval
Thumbnail of graph for Percentage of cancer survivors aged 20 years and older who were overweight by time since cancer diagnosis, 1992-2018 5 years or less since diagnosisClick to see the detailed trend graph for 5 years or less since diagnosis 39.0 34.9 - 43.2
6+ years since diagnosisClick to see the detailed trend graph for 6+ years since diagnosis 33.2 30.3 - 36.2
Compared to Remaining U.S. Population
Comparison of cancer survivors and remaining U.S. population for percentage of adults aged 18 years and older who were overweight, 2014-2018
Overview graph Age Group Cancer Survivor Remaining U.S. Population
Percent of population Confidence Interval Percent of population Confidence Interval
Thumbnail of graph for Comparison of cancer survivors and remaining U.S. population for percentage of adults aged 18 years and older who were overweight, 2014-2018 Ages 18 and older 32.1 29.7 - 34.6 34.4 34.0 - 34.7

Obese

By Sex
Percentage of cancer survivors aged 20 years and older who were obese by sex, 1992-2018
Overview Graph Detailed Trend Graphs Most Recent Estimates (2018)
Percent of cancer survivors 95% Confidence Interval
Thumbnail of graph for Percentage of cancer survivors aged 20 years and older who were obese by sex, 1992-2018 Both SexesClick to see the detailed trend graph for Both Sexes 31.5 29.3 - 33.9
MaleClick to see the detailed trend graph for Male 32.0 28.0 - 36.2
FemaleClick to see the detailed trend graph for Female 31.2 28.4 - 34.1
By Time Since Cancer Diagnosis
Percentage of cancer survivors aged 20 years and older who were obese by time since cancer diagnosis, 1992-2018
Overview Graph Detailed Trend Graphs Most Recent Estimates (2018)
Percent of cancer survivors 95% Confidence Interval
Thumbnail of graph for Percentage of cancer survivors aged 20 years and older who were obese by time since cancer diagnosis, 1992-2018 5 years or less since diagnosisClick to see the detailed trend graph for 5 years or less since diagnosis 29.2 25.8 - 32.8
6+ years since diagnosisClick to see the detailed trend graph for 6+ years since diagnosis 34.0 31.0 - 37.2
Compared to Remaining U.S. Population
Comparison of cancer survivors and remaining U.S. population for percentage of adults aged 18 years and older who were obese, 2014-2018
Overview graph Age Group Cancer Survivor Remaining U.S. Population
Percent of population Confidence Interval Percent of population Confidence Interval
Thumbnail of graph for Comparison of cancer survivors and remaining U.S. population for percentage of adults aged 18 years and older who were obese, 2014-2018 Ages 18 and older 33.4 31.0 - 35.8 30.2 29.7 - 30.6

Evidence-based Resources

Resources are available to assist cancer control planners, program staff, and researchers to design, implement, and evaluate evidence-based survivorship programs.  Visit Cancer Control P.L.A.N.E.T.- survivorship for data on cancer incidence, research syntheses, cancer control plans, research-tested interventions, interactive communities of practice, and other resources. 

Additional Information on Cancer Survivors and Weight

For the public

For health professionals

Scientific reports

Statistics

Year Range

1992-2018

Recent Summary Trend Year Range

2014-2018

Summary Tables

Survival, Smoking, Obesity, Physical Activity

Recent Summary Trend

Rising

Desired Direction

Falling