A waistline of more than 94 cm for men and 90 cm for women increases the risk of some types of cancer, and the greater the waistline, the higher the cancer risk.
There is strong evidence that shows being overweight or obese throughout adulthood increases the risk of 13 types of cancers, including breast (postmenopausal women), colon and rectum, endometrium, gallbladder, gastric cardia, kidney, liver, meningioma, multiple myeloma, oesophagus, ovary, pancreas and thyroid.
Being overweight or obese also increases your risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, gall bladder disease, gout, impaired fertility, lower back pain, osteoarthritis and many other conditions.
Maintaining a healthy weight is about getting the balance right between what you eat and drink and how physically active you are.
To reduce your risk, aim to keep your waist circumference and body mass index (BMI) within the recommended range.
Measuring waist circumference
Waist circumference is one way to measure body weight. For some diseases—including post-menopausal breast cancer—fat carried around the abdomen and waist is a greater risk than fat carried on the hips and thighs.
- Find the top of your hip bone and the bottom of your ribs.
- Place a tape measure midway between these points, and wrap it around your waist.
- Breathe out normally and check your measurement in centimetres.
Men should aim for a waist circumference below 94 cm.
Women should aim for a waist circumference below 80 cm
Your health status
|Waist circumference||Level of risk|
|men < 94 cm
women <80 cm
|Not at risk|
|men: 94-102 cm
women: 80-88 cm
|men > 102 cm
women >88 cm
|Substantially increased risk|
Calculating BMI (body mass index)
BMI is a measure of your body weight in relation to your height and can give you an indication of your weight status. However, it does not take into account muscle mass. A score over 25 is classed as overweight and a score over 30 is obese. To work out your BMI, you need to know your weight (in kilograms) and your height (in metres).
Click here for BMI Calculator
Steve weighs 82 kg and is 1.74 metres tall. To calculate his BMI: 82 ÷ (1.74 x 1.74 ) = 27 kg / m2 Steve’s BMI is 27 and is in the overweight range. Ideally your BMI should be between 18.5 and 25, in the healthy weight range.
However the specific cut-off measurements of BMI may not be suitable for all ethnic groups, who may have equivalent levels of risk at a lower BMI or higher BMI.
Staying in shape
Maintaining a healthy weight is about getting the balance right between what you eat and how physically active you are.
- Make it a priority not to gain more weight.
- Set realistic goals to lose your weight (aiming for 0.5–1.0 kg weight loss per week, or as recommended by your doctor).
- Eat a healthy diet.
- Be physically active at every opportunity.
- Eat according to your needs. Be mindful of portion size, non-hungry eating.
- Keep high-kilojoule, low-nutrient foods (such as chips, cake, chocolate and takeaway foods) to a minimum
- Limit alcoholic drinks as they are high in /kilojoules/calories and can also increase your risk of cancer in their own right.
Looking for more tips about managing your weight?
- SA Health–Maintaining Healthy Weight
- SA Health–Healthy Weight Loss Tips
- Dietitians Association of Australia–Weight Management
- Better Health Channel–Weight Management
Want to know where this information comes from? Click here.
This website page was last reviewed and updated March 2019.