Weight status and perception of colorectal cancer risk

J Am Board Fam Med. 2012 Nov-Dec;25(6):792-7. doi: 10.3122/jabfm.2012.06.120017.


Background: Obesity increases the risk of many cancers including colorectal cancer (CRC).

Methods: This is secondary data analysis of the 2010 National Health Interview Survey data. A total of 9360 obese and overweight participants, aged 50 to 80 years, were analyzed according to their perception of their personal cancer risk.

Results: Having a perception of increased risk for cancer was associated with higher CRC screening rates. However, when compared with their normal-weight counterparts, overweight and obese individuals did not perceive themselves as being at an increased risk for cancer in general or for CRC specifically. Subgroup analysis revealed one notable exception. Obese black women appeared to recognize themselves as being at higher risk for CRC.

Conclusions: Most obese and overweight individuals fail to recognize their increased cancer risk. Individuals who perceive themselves as being at increased risk for cancer, especially CRC, are more likely to have undergone CRC screening. Unfortunately, obese and overweight individuals do not seem to recognize the increased cancer risk conferred by their body weight. Education is needed so that obese and overweight individuals are aware that their excess body weight is a risk factor for cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Black or African American
  • Body Mass Index
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / ethnology
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / psychology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Early Detection of Cancer / psychology
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice* / ethnology
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / complications*
  • Obesity / ethnology
  • Overweight / complications
  • Overweight / ethnology
  • Risk Factors
  • Self Report
  • Sex Factors
  • United States