There is a significant link between obesity and cancer that many people do not appreciate. Diabetes and heart disease have links to obesity that many people understand. But cancer, a word no one wants to hear, is rarely discussed as a complication of obesity. Did you know, obesity increases your risk of 13 different cancers?
These cancers make up 40% of all cancer cases diagnosed in the United States each year. The American Cancer Society reports excess body weight is responsible for about 11% of cancers in women and 5% of cancers in men in the United States, and about 7% of all cancer deaths.
What if I told you, you could help reduce your risk of getting cancer?
That’s right, keeping a healthy weight is one of the most important steps you can take to lower your risk of getting cancer. It is staggering to learn that in the United States, from 2005 to 2014, the rate of obesity-related cancers increased 7%, while the rate of cancers not associated with obesity decreased by 13%. The link between obesity and cancer risk is clear.
Understanding the Link Between Obesity and Cancer
Experts believe excess weight changes increase a patient’s cancer risk primarily due to inflammation caused by visceral fat, the fat that surrounds our organs. The problem with excessive visceral fat is that it affects specific processes in your body. Fat cells produce hormones that promote cell growth; the more often these cells divide, the more chances for cancer to develop. Fat tissue can also produce proteins that cause conditions like chronic inflammation and insulin resistance, which can promote cell growth.
Actions to Take to Lower Your Risk of Obesity and Cancer
- Make healthy lifestyle choices. You can lower your risk of both obesity and cancer by exercising regularly and eating a healthy balanced diet. Many observational studies have shown people who have lower weight gain during adulthood have lower cancer risk. Studies have also found, with weight loss comes decreased risk of endometrial, colon, prostate, and breast cancer. Being obese or overweight hurts your body’s ability to function correctly. Maintaining a healthy weight is essential for reducing your risk for cancer.
- Consider having Bariatric (weight loss) surgery. Sometimes, we need an extra tool in our tool belt to help us lose weight. Bariatric surgery might be the tool you need. This procedure reduces food consumption and aids weight loss by removing a part of the stomach, thereby reducing its size.
Patients who have had Bariatric surgery appear to have lower obesity-related cancer risk than those who have not. Though bariatric surgery is a more aggressive approach than lifestyle modifications, surgery may provide additional benefits, such as improved quality of life and decreased long-term health care costs.
How Do Medical Professionals Help Patients Lower their Risk of Obesity and Cancers
Achieving or maintaining a healthy weight can be challenging. Sometimes you might need professional advice, so don’t be afraid to ask health professionals for assistance. Health care providers can help patients keep a healthy weight by doing the following:
- Measure and define the data
- Educate on risks and opportunities of obesity and cancer
- Help build a support network
- Agree on a comprehensive action plan
- Hold patients accountable
Have you decided to take a positive step toward reclaiming your health? Many of us have struggled to lose weight and keep it off most of our life. We are not just starting the journey. It is a journey we have been on for years. It is time to finally achieve your goal. Maybe you’ve already researched on your own or talked with your Primary Care Physician.