Obesity Can Raise Your Risk of Cancer - PIH Health

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Published on April 21, 2016

Obesity Can Raise Your Risk of Cancer

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Results from a National Health and Nutrition Examination Study indicated that more than two-thirds of adults nationwide age 20 and older are overweight or obese. This means that they have too much body fat compared to lean body tissue, such as muscle. Most of us know that being overweight or obese contributes to many diseases, including diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular diseases and stroke. But being overweight is also associated with many types of cancers, including:  

  • Esophagus
  • Pancreas
  • Colon and rectum
  • Breast (after menopause)
  • Endometrium (lining of the uterus)
  • Kidney
  • Thyroid
  • Gallbladder

The National Cancer Institute estimated in 2007 that about 34,000 new cases of cancer in men (4 percent) and 50,500 in women (7 percent) were due to obesity.

Why does being overweight or obese increase cancer risk and growth? The possible reasons are:

  • Increased levels of insulin and insulin growth factor-1 (IGF-1), which may help some cancers develop
  • Chronic, low-level inflammation, which is more common in people who are obese and is linked with an increased cancer risk
  • Higher amounts of estrogen produced by fat tissue, which can drive the development of some cancers, such as breast and endometrial cancers
  • Fat cells may also affect processes that regulate cancer cell growth

To control weight gain, be aware of what you eat and how much you exercise. Here are a few tips to help:

  • Eat vegetables, fruits, lean protein and whole grains.
  • Limit foods and beverages that are high in sugar, such as juice and soda.
  • Eat and drink only as many calories as you need to maintain a healthy weight and support your level of activity.
  • Do 30 to 60 minutes per day of moderate to intense exercise most days. Even a small increase in physical activity can help.

The information in Healthy Living Online is for educational purposes only.  It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice.  The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation, or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan.

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