Maintain a healthy weight

Being above a healthy weight increases your cancer risk

Learn about the link between body weight and cancer, plus tips to prevent weight gain.

Being above a healthy weight increases your cancer risk

Eating a nutritious diet and doing regular exercise are essential habits to help you keep within a healthy weight range, no matter your age.

In fact, research shows that more than 15 types of cancer are more common in people who are above a healthy weight.1

Extra body fat, especially around the waist and vital organs (like the liver, kidneys and heart), leads to an increase in chemicals and hormones being released within the body. It may also lead to inflammation.2 This can alter how the cells in your body divide, which can increase the risk of cancer.

The bottom line is: maintaining a healthy weight is essential to help prevent cancer and improve your quality of life.

Key Tip: Take a long term approach

Focusing on eating a balanced diet and being active will help you maintain a healthy body weight and feel good. A long-term approach to your health and wellbeing will help you maintain a healthy weight over your lifetime, which will prevent issues like cancer.

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Get the facts

An icon of a human body overlaid with the number '15'
Being above a healthy weight can increase your risk of  more than 15 types of cancer1
A map of Australia overlaid with the number 4,000
Almost 4,000 cancer cases in Australia each year are caused by being overweight or obese4
an icon saying 'More than 1/2' over a map of NSW
More than half of NSW adults are overweight or obese3

More than 15 types of cancer are linked to weight

More than fifteen types of cancer are more common in people who are above a healthy weight.

These cancers include mouth and upper throat, larynx (voice box), oesophageal (food pipe), breast, liver, gallbladder, kidney, bowel (colon and rectum), multiple myeloma (a type of blood cancer), meningioma (a type of brain tumour), thyroid, gastric cardia (upper stomach), pancreatic, prostate, ovarian and uterine.5


An infographic showing the body areas which are linked to more than 15 types of cancer

Do you have a healthy body weight?

Overweight and obesity can be measured by the Body Mass Index (BMI).
Use our BMI calculator below to find out if you are within a healthy weight range.

You can also assess your body weight by measuring your waist. Fat stored around your middle increases your risk of disease.

For women, a waist measurement of 80 cm or more usually increases your risk of disease. A measurement of 88 cm or more means your risk is high.

For men, a waist measurement of 94 cm or more usually increases your risk of disease. A measurement of 102 cm or more means your risk is high.

* These measurements are a general guide and may change vary from person to person, depending on your ethnicity and other factors. If you are overweight, you could be at risk of developing cancer and other health issues. Book an appointment with your doctor or a dietitian to get help with managing your weight and health.

Achieve a healthy body weight with two key factors

Maintaining a healthy body weight can be challenging. It can be hard to know if you are taking the right steps to live a healthy lifestyle.

Focusing on two key factors will help you to manage your weight: eating healthy and exercising regularly.

There are many other things you can do to work towards achieving a healthier weight and reducing your cancer risk in the future. Get all the facts and discover our practical tips to live a healthier life.

Studies show us that about one in four cancer cases can potentially be prevented through improvements in diet and physical activity.[8]

More information and resources

  • Get Healthy NSW offers free health coaching over the phone to help you reach your health goals including cutting down on alcohol.
  • Healthy Eating Active Living is a NSW Government website with healthy eating tips and information on free programs to get you active. It aims to help you live a healthier life through food and exercise.
  • The Australian Dietary Guidelines tell you what foods to eat and how much. They also tell you what foods to avoid.
  • Australia’s Physical activity and sedentary behaviour guidelines tell you how much exercise you should do each day. They also give tips on how you can get started.
  • The Staying well and preventing cancer flipchart was developed for community educators supporting multicultural communities. It starts the conversation around cancer prevention and healthy living behaviours including healthy eating, being active, being a healthy body weight, not smoking, protecting your skin and participating in cancer screening.


1. Steele CB, Thomas CC, Henley SJ, et al. Vital Signs: Trends in Incidence of Cancers Associated with Overweight and Obesity — United States, 2005–2014. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2017;66:1052–1058. DOI:

2. Ellulu, M. S., Patimah, I., Khaza'ai, H., Rahmat, A., & Abed, Y. (2017). Obesity and inflammation: the linking mechanism and the complications. Archives of medical science : AMS, 13(4), 851–863.

3. NSW Government.  Snapshot November 2018: Adult overweight and obesity. Available at Accessed 17 August 2020)

4. Kendall, B. J., Wilson, L. F., Olsen, C. M., Webb, P. M., Neale, R. E., Bain, C. J., & Whiteman, D. C. (2015). Cancers in Australia in 2010 attributable to overweight and obesity. Australian and New Zealand journal of public health, 39(5), 452–457.

5. World Cancer Research Fund Australian Institute for Cancer Research. Diet, Nutrition, Physical Activity and Cancer: a Global Perspective. Continuous Update Project Exert Report 2018. Available from

6. Estimating the future burden of cancers preventable by better diet and physical activity in Australia, Peter D Baade, Xingqiong Meng, Craig Sinclair and Philippa Youl. Med J Aust 2012; 196 (5): 337-340. || doi: 10.5694/mja11.11082. Published online: 19 March 2012: