Obesity is increasingly becoming a public health nightmare; its prevalence has more than doubled in the last 40 years. It has been associated with the potential risks of developing diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and some forms of cancer.

Cancer is one of the leading causes of death in the world today. Doctors have warned against excessive body weight; it could lead to the increase in risk of developing cancer.

Obesity and Cancer Risk

Many people are unaware of the link between adiposity and cancer risk, and thus the need for a healthy lifestyle. Primary health care providers can be useful in preventing excess adult weight and subsequently reduce the risk of cancers.

A study published in the British Medical Journal found strong evidence supporting the association of between obesity and 11 types of cancer. These cancers were mainly digestive (pancreatic, kidney, biliary tract, oesophagus, colorectal, bone marrow and stomach cancers), and hormonal (ovarian, breast and endometrial cancer) in women.

The study was an umbrella review of 204 previous meta-analyses and systemic reviews on the possible link between high body fat level and cancer.

The results of the umbrella review categorised the association of obesity and risk of cancer as; 18 % highly suggestive, 25% suggestive, 20% weak, and 25% no evidence.

The researchers looked at the body mass index (BMI) and found that increases in BMI lead to a higher risk of developing cancers of the oesophagus, kidney, biliary tract, pancreas, and bone marrow. In men, for every 5kg/m2 increase in BMI, the risk of developing colorectal cancer increased by 9%, while for women the risk of developing postmenopausal breast cancer increased by 11%. The figures were higher for other cancers such as that of the biliary tract system whose risk increases by 56% for every 5kg/m2 increase in BMI.

One major limitation of the study is that it did not explain exactly how excess body weight is directly linked to cancer. One of the researchers, Gunter, proposed an explanation:  “We know that if you are overweight it causes lots of disruption of hormonal and metabolic pathways.” Notably, excess fat is linked to higher oestrogen levels, increased inflammation, and higher insulin levels which affect cell division mechanisms.

Obesity: Second biggest Preventable Cause of Cancer

Dr Rachel Orritt of Cancer Research UK notes that obesity is the biggest preventable cause of cancer second to smoking. She advises everyone to make lifestyle changes to help keep a healthy weight and to reduce risk of cancer.

The risk does not only concern obese people but also those who carry excess fat – many people fall under this category. This means that to lower the risk of cancer, people with higher risk levels could benefit from Personalised Anticancer Diet, Personal Wellness and Education, and Detox Treatments.

More research is still needed to investigate the changes in body fat over time to determine the direct correlation between obesity and the risk of getting cancer or dying from it.

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Source: BMJ