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Measuring your waist

We know that being overweight or obese increases our risk of developing certain cancers, but how can we monitor our weight to make sure it is within the healthy range?

Well, there are two simple ways. One is by using WCRF UK's BMI calculator to see if we are a healthy weight for our height, and the other is by measuring our waist circumference.

Measuring waist circumference is a particularly useful method, as it can also help us to check if we are carrying weight around the waist, which can be particularly harmful. Abdominal fatness (fat around the middle) is strongly linked to bowel cancer and probably linked to cancers of the pancreas and endometrium (womb), as well as to breast cancer (in postmenopausal women).

WCRF UK's nutritionist has some tips on how to measure waist circumference accurately:

How to do it

  1. Place a tape measure around your waist at the halfway point between the bottom of your lowest rib and the top of your hipbone. This is the point at which to measure your waist.

  2. Make sure the tape is straight and snug but doesn’t compress your skin.
  3. Measure after breathing out.

What is a healthy measurement?

As a guide, a healthy waist measurement is:

  • less than 31.5”/80cm for women
  • less than 37”/94cm for white and black men
  • less than 35”/90cm for Asian men

This may seem easier to achieve at a younger age, but it is important that we all try to be as lean as possible around the waist at any age.

Try our top tips for maintaining a healthy weight to help you.

Measuring your waist - nutritionist advice

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Page last reviewed: April 2013
Page next due for review: April 2015
The information on this page is based on the findings of our Expert Report and is covered by the Information Standard.

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