PEOPLE who are overweight or obese are at greater risk of developing the most common cancers, according to a major new study.

Researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine gathered data on 5.2 million people in the UK, of whom nearly 170,000 developed cancer, and found that a person's Body Mass Index, a measure of body fat, was linked to 17 out of 22 cancers.

The findings, which were published in the Lancet medical journal, suggest BMI was "positively associated" with 10 most common cancers, including uterus, cervix, thyroid, kidney, liver and colon.

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A person is deemed to be overweight if they have a BMI score, calculated using their weight and height, of 25 to 30 and are obese if it is above 30.

The study, funded by the National Institute for Health Research, Wellcome Trust and Medical Research Council, also suggested if waistlines continued to grow then there could be 3,790 more cancer sufferers per year.

Dr Krishnan Bhaskaran, who led the study, said more than 12,000 cases of the 10 most common cancers could be attributed to obesity.