Carrying excess fat around the waist increases the risk of bowel cancer even if the rest of the body is slim, experts have said.
For every extra inch on the waist above a healthy measurement, the risk of bowel cancer goes up 3%, a study found.
Experts concluded that a big waist circumference is a predictor of bowel cancer, regardless of overall body mass index (BMI).
The research, from experts at Imperial College London and the University of Leeds, will be presented at an international cancer conference today. It focuses on a review of seven existing papers which found tummy fat is a predictor for bowel cancer.
The review provides the strongest evidence so far that the link remains true, even if the rest of the body is in proportion and the person is normal weight or only moderately overweight.
As a guide, a health waist measurement is defined as less than 31.5in (80cm) for women, less than 37in (94cm) for white and black men and less than 35in (90cm) for Asian men.
Professor Martin Wiseman, medical and scientific adviser for the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF), which funded the study, said: “We estimate that more than 2,700 cases of bowel cancer a year in the UK could be prevented through people maintaining a healthy weight.”
The results of the review will be presented at WCRF’s international scientific conference in London.