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Obese Women Less Likely to Be Tested for Some Cancers
Date:3/24/2008

Study finds they're not getting needed screenings for breast and cervical tumors

MONDAY, March 24 (HealthDay News) -- A new review of 32 studies suggests that obese women -- particularly white women -- are more likely than others to skip screenings for breast and cervical cancer.

No one knows why extra pounds lessen the likelihood that women will avoid mammograms or Pap smears. And it's not known why obesity seems to have no significant effect on colorectal screening, the researchers said.

However, the findings do point to a problem that deserves attention in the doctor's office, said study lead author Sarah S. Cohen, a graduate student in the department of epidemiology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

"Because obesity is becoming an increasing problem in our health-care system, encouraging women who are overweight and obese to be screened may be especially important," she said. "It's important for physicians to address it and encourage women to be screened."

According to Cohen, the screening rates for breast and cervical cancer are fairly high. About 75 percent of American women receive mammograms every year or two after the age of 40, she said, while about 85 percent of women get Pap smears to test for cervical cancer.

The screening rates for colorectal cancer are much lower, perhaps around a third of women, she said.

The new review, published in the May 1 issue of the journal Cancer, examined 32 studies looking at breast cancer (10 studies), cervical cancer (14) and colorectal cancer (eight studies). The studies typically defined obese women as those having a body mass index [BMI, a ratio of weight to height] of 30 or above. That means they were more than merely overweight as defined by national guidelines.

Overall, obese women were 10 percent to 40 percent less likely to be screened for breast and cervical cancer compared to other women, Coh
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