Obesity And Cancer: The Reality Behind Cancer And Weight
There’s an ongoing war in America you may have heard of. Not necessarily political, this is a war that affects more than one in three adults in this country (as of 2010). Obesity is something of a problem, but it may be more serious than just an excess of body fat.
The difference between being overweight and obese is a technicality that many don’t understand. Those who are overweight have excess weight that can come from water, bone, muscles or fat. To be obese means to have an excess amount of fat specifically. Body mass also determines obesity — someone with a BMI of 25 to 29.9 is overweight, while a 30+ BMI means obesity.
The health risks of obesity include high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, liver disease, the possibility for stroke, osteoarthritis and fatigue. However, obesity can also be closely related to cancer — and not just one type, but 13.
A New Study and Discovery
While it’s been discussed that obesity has been linked to certain types of cancer, it wasn’t until a recent study done by a working group of the International Agency for Research on Cancer that the scope of obesity’s damage was fully understood. A part of the World Health Organization, IARC found solid evidence that obesity can be directly linked to 13 different types of cancer.
According to the review published in The New England Journal of medicine, eight different cancers are newly linked to excess body fat. These include, gastric cardia (a type of stomach cancer located near the esophagus), liver cancer, pancreatic cancer, thyroid cancer, ovarian cancer, gallbladder cancer, multiple myeloma (blood cancer) and meningioma (a typically benign type of brain tumor.) These eight cancers are added to the already existing list of colorectal cancer, postmenopausal breast cancer, uterine cancer, kidney cancer and adenocarcinoma of the esophagus.
A fact that’s even more staggering is that over 40% off all new cancer diagnosis fall into one of these 13 types of cancer, and in many cases excess fat is the direct link. Prior to this discovery, it was thought that smoking was the number one cause of existing cancer diagnosis, but now obesity has shot up to the top of the list.
Men vs. Women
Of all 13 types discovered, the strongest links between obesity and cancer were found in two different types: uterine and postmenopausal breast cancer. The reason? Both are estrogen receptor positive cancers. Because obesity is linked to hormone abnormalities and inflammation, estrogen, obesity and cancer are all very significantly linked.
At the same time, other forms of cancer were studied to see if a link existed between them and obesity. Two of the three found to have a limited (but not non-existent) link are biologically male exclusive — male breast cancer and prostate cancer. The other cancer without a strong link is diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (the most common form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma).
Other cancers studied seemed to have no correlation. These include lung cancer, squamous-cell esophageal cancer, cancer of the biliary tract, gastric noncardia cancer, cutaneous melanoma, urinary tract cancer, giloma of the brain/spinal cord or testicular cancer.
What Can You Do?
The study itself doesn’t definitively prove a way to put a stop to the risk if the damage is already done. The best advice possible is to maintain your weight and never become obese. However, this isn’t helpful for those who are already obese or who have been overweight or obese in the fast. Losing weight certainly isn’t a bad idea, but it’s also hard to study whether or not losing weight effectively stops the risk. Why? Many who lose weight find they will always have trouble keeping it off.
That doesn’t stop doctors from prescribing weight gain to cancer patients with obesity. On one hand, having a cancer patient in the best health possible is always a positive sign for their recovery. It can be hard for cancer patients, especially those on chemotherapy, to stick to an exercise regimen, but it’s important to start small. Chemotherapy can already be a cause of weight loss, but diet and exercise adjustments can help the pounds go away in the healthiest way possible.
Recently doctors have been attempting to study the effects of weight loss on breast cancer patients. Women 18 and older who were diagnosed with cancer were put on diets by Dr. Jennifer Ligibel in an attempt to see whether or not the weight loss would have a positive effect on cancer remission. Obese women are more likely to develop breast cancer, and the object of the study is to see if losing weight can reverse the effects of cancer and then keep it at bay.
As science advances, so does our knowledge of the correlation between various cancers and obesity. Right now, we all can work hard to maintain a healthy weight and try to live a cancer free life.