US Study Finds 40% of Cancer Diagnoses Are Linked to Obesity

by | Published on Nov 17, 2017 | Healthcare News

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Obesity has been recognized as a serious health epidemic in the United States. Obesity levels in the US witnessed a dramatic increase over the past few years, with some estimates pointing out that more than two-thirds of American adults are overweight or obese. According to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 40% of American adults and 19% of American children were obese in 2015-2016. Higher body weight can potentially increase the risk of medical issues such as type-2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and cancer among others.

The World Cancer Research Fund estimates that about 20% of all cancers diagnosed in the US are related to obesity, physical inactivity, excess alcohol consumption and poor nutrition and thus can be prevented. Even though all these factors are related and may significantly lead to cancer risk, total body weight seems to have the strongest evidence linking it to cancer.

According to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), family practice physicians play a prominent role in preventing and treating obesity and weight management issues, and overcoming or managing the various risks faced by obese individuals. These physicians provide adequate guidance to patients to better manage their symptoms and reduce further chances of developing other chronic ailments. Obesity screening and counseling is a covered service and a reputable medical billing company can help physicians with accurate medical coding for this service.

Medicare provides coverage for obesity screening and behavioral therapy as part of its preventive services. Obese Medicare beneficiaries can consult a primary care physician or practitioner for counseling. The coverage is offered for – one face-to-face visit every week for the first month; one face-to-face visit every other week for months 2-6; and one face-to-face visit every month for 7-12 months (provided the patient/beneficiary achieves a weight reduction of at least 3kg (6.6 lbs) during the first six months). Physicians must accurately document their diagnosis and preventive measures adopted so that the correct diagnostic and procedural codes can be assigned to ensure adequate reimbursement. Physicians can assign coding tasks to qualified coders so that the medical claims don’t get delayed due to erratic coding. A professional medical billing and coding company can ensure timely claims submission and accurate reimbursement.

A recent report cautions against the significant role of obesity in cancer. According to this report, obesity-related cancers account for about 40% of all diagnoses of the disease in the United States, an increasing share of all cancer diagnoses worldwide. The report titled Vital Signs was compiled by researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in collaboration with researchers from the National Cancer Institute. Even though new cases of cancer have decreased since the 1990s, diagnoses of obesity-related cancers increased between 2005 and 2014.

The study evaluated the occurrence of cancers in people who are overweight or obese. It was found that even though these cancers are linked to being overweight, they are not necessarily caused by the same condition.

As part of the study, researchers analyzed data from the US Cancer Statistics database (between the years 2005-2014) to establish trends in obesity and overweight-related cancers. More specifically, the researchers looked at the 13 types of cancer that have traditionally been associated with being overweight. The key findings of the study include –

  • About 630,000 individuals in the US were diagnosed with obesity- and overweight-related cancers in 2014. Two-thirds of those cases were in Boomer-generation adults, between the age group of 50 and 74.
  • About 55% of all cancers diagnosed in women and 24% of those diagnosed in men were related to obesity and overweight.
  • Between 2005 and 2014, the rates of overweight-linked cancers increased 7% (not including colorectal cancer), while rates of cancers not associated with obesity declined 13%.

Researchers claim that the incidence of obesity-related cancer is high in the United States. The best prescription for preventing this condition is to promote good health. Weight loss must be considered as one of the prominent factors and physical fitness must be emphasized for maximum risk reduction.

Rajeev Rajagopal

Rajeev Rajagopal, the President of OSI, has a wealth of experience as a healthcare business consultant in the United States. He has a keen understanding of current medical billing and coding standards.

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