Is Cancer related to obesity/overweight?

The holiday season is gone and the sad news are that some kilograms stayed with us and maybe for the rest of the year. Now that we are mid-January, we may want to consider coming back to a healthier life, moreover to a healthier feeding.

There are many studies suggesting that the harmful effects of being overweight have been underestimated. A new report warns about the role of obesity in cancer. As many as 40 percent of all cancers are related to obesity, according to the new research, which suggests that these cancers would be preventable if weight was kept under control.

The report, entitled Vital Signs1, was compiled by researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in collaboration with researchers from the National Cancer Institute.

Being overweight is defined as having a body mass index (BMI) between 25 and 29.9 kilograms per square meter, and obesity is defined as having a BMI of 30 kilograms per square meter and over.

The researchers looked at the 13 types of cancer that have traditionally been associated with being overweight and having obesity. These include a type of esophageal cancer called esophageal adenocarcinoma, postmenopausal breast cancer, colorectal cancer, endometrial cancer, gallbladder cancer, and gastric cardia cancer. Additionally, the researchers looked at cancer of the kidney, liver, and thyroid, as well as ovarian and pancreatic cancer. The report also examined meningioma, which is a slow-progressing type of brain tumor, and multiple myeloma.

There is consistent evidence that a high BMI is associated with cancer risk. Persons who are overweight or have obesity are nearly twice as likely as are healthy-weight (BMI = 18.5–24.9kg/m2) persons to develop adenocarcinoma of the esophagus and cancers of the gastric cardia, liver, and kidney. Persons who have obesity are approximately 30% more likely to develop colorectal cancer than persons with healthy weight. Women who are overweight or have obesity are approximately two to four times as likely as are women with healthy weight to develop endometrial cancer. Gender-wise, more cancers were linked with obesity in women than in men.

More studies are needed to unravel this intriguing relationship, above all because industrialized countries are registering an alarming increase in the consumption of saturated fats and sugar. Fat is necessary for the function of the body, but uncontrolled intake can have an effect on health, as already shown for some tumors, and in metastasis. At Althian we are concerned about this situation so, we strongly encourage people who are overweight or obese to try to lose weight. Aside from possibly reducing cancer risk, losing weight can have many other health benefits, such as lowering the risk of heart disease, diabetes or other metabolic diseases.

  1. Steele CB, Thomas CC, Henley SJ, et al. Vital Signs: Trends in Incidence of Cancers Associated with Overweight and Obesity — United States, 2005–2014. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2017;66:1052–1058. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6639e1.

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