Being Overweight Increases Your Risk of Cancer - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Published on December 10, 2014

Being Overweight Increases Your Risk of Cancer

The World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer found that a high body mass index (BMI) has now become a major cancer risk factor.

The WHO has found that a high BMI is
a major cancer risk factor.

Over the years, a slew of studies have linked being overweight to a litany of health conditions – diabetes, high blood pressure, knee and joint pain, high cholesterol, heart disease and more.

Obesity is also a risk factor for cancer. And while doctors have known this for a while, a recently-published study shed light on just how serious the issue is.

The study found that about half a million cases of cancer a year are due to people being overweight or obese. The World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer found that a high body mass index (BMI) has now become a major cancer risk factor; 3.6 percent of new cancer cases in 2012 were caused by being overweight.

Being obese is defined as having an abnormally high and unhealthy proportion of body fat. A person’s BMI is calculated by dividing their weight by their height squared. Those with a BMI of 25 and higher are considered overweight and a BMI of 30 or higher is considered obese.

Obesity has been associated with an increased risk of esophageal cancer, pancreatic cancer, colon and rectal cancer, breast cancer, kidney cancer, endometrial cancer, thyroid cancer and gallbladder cancer.

Why does being overweight or obese increase a person’s risk of developing cancer?

Fat tissue produces excess estrogen – high levels of this hormone have been associated with a higher risk of breast, endometrial and other types of cancer. In fact, fat cells produce some other hormones, which can contribute to the development of other types of cancers and tumor growth.

Obese people tend to have an increased level of insulin in their blood, which may also promote the growth of certain tumors.

One of the best ways to get to a healthy weight and, in turn lower your risk of cancer, is to be aware of what you eat and to make healthy choices about food and drink. This includes eating more vegetables, fruits, lean proteins and whole grains. You should also limit foods and drinks that are high in sugar, like soda and juice.

The mantra “eat to live, don’t live to eat” is often associated with maintaining a healthy weight. You should only eat and drink as many calories needed to maintain a healthy weight and support physical activity.

While diet is a huge part of a healthy weight, physical activity is as well. You should aim for 30 to 60 minutes of moderate to intense exercise most days.

If you are currently overweight or obese, nutrition and exercise are the best tools you can use to take steps toward losing weight. Losing just 5 to 10 percent of your body weight can have exponential benefits on your health.

If diet and exercise aren’t enough, you should have a discussion with your doctor or registered dietitian who specialize in weight loss. They might recommend medications or medical procedures that may help you on your journey to a healthier lifestyle.

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