Trends in the burden of most common obesity-related cancers in 16 Southern Africa development community countries, 1990–2019

Published September 27, 2023, in Obesity Science and Practice (opens in a new window)



Obesity-related cancers in the 16 Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries is quite prominent. The changes and time trends of the burden of obesity-related cancers in developing countries like SADC remain largely unknown. A descriptive epidemiological analysis was conducted to assess the burden of obesity-related cancers, (liver, esophageal, breast, prostate, colon/rectal, leukemia, ovarian, uterine, pancreatic, kidney, gallbladder/biliary tract, and thyroid cancers) in SADC countries.


Data from the 2019 Global Burden of Diseases Study was used. Deaths extracted from vital registration, verbal autopsies and ICD codes. Cancer-type, mortality and prevalence per 100,000 population and 95% uncertainty intervals (UIs) were calculated using the Cause of Death Ensemble model and Spatio-Temporal Gaussian process with mixed effects regression models. Annual rates of change (AROCs) between 1990 and 2019 and the corresponding UIs were calculated.


The top age-standardized mortality rates per 100,000 in 2019 for males were leukemia, 20.1(14.4–26.4), esophageal cancer, 15.1 (11.2–19.1), and colon and rectal cancer, 10.3 (8.6–12.6). For females, breast cancer, 20.6 (16.6–25.0), leukemia, 17.1 (11.4–23.7), and esophageal cancer, 8.3 (5.5–10.7), had the leading mortality rates. For males, AROC substantial (p < 0.05) increase for kidney cancer for 11 of the countries (AROC from 0.41% to 1.24%), colon cancer for eight of the countries (from 0.39% to 0.92%), and pancreatic cancer for seven countries (from 0.26% to 1.01%). 

In females, AROC showed substantial increase for pancreatic cancer for 13 of the countries from (0.34%–1.67%), nine countries for kidney cancer (from 0.27% to 1.02%), seven countries each for breast cancer (0.35%–1.13%), and ovarian cancer (from 0.33% to 1.21%).


There is need for location-specific and culturally appropriate strategies for better nutrition and weight control, and improved screening for all cancers. Health promotion messaging should target kidney, colon, pancreatic, and breast cancers and encourage clinically tested methods of reducing BMI such as increasing personal physical activity and adoption of effective dietary regimes.

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Gona P, Gona C, Ballout S, et al. Trends in the burden of most common obesity-related cancers in 16 Southern Africa development community countries, 1990–2019. Findings from the global burden of disease study. Obesity Science and Practice. 27 September 2023. doi: 10.1002/osp4.715.