A Healthy You – Obesity: The New Cancer

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Cindy Gates RD, LD, CWC, CLT

Most Americans realize that obesity has connection to heart disease and diabetes, but nine out of ten remain unaware of the linkage between obesity and cancer. Obesity is now being called the ” new smoking” due to its role in promoting a broad range of cancers. The American Cancer Society predicts obesity will soon overtake smoking as the primary preventable cause of cancer.

Some cancers are more strongly associated with obesity than others. According to the U.K.’s Million Women Study that tracked a million women for over 7 years found 12% increased cancer risk for all cancers associated with both overweight and obesity.

The following were found to have the strongest indications for increased risk with obesity:

  • Endometrial cancer-189% increased risk
  • Esophageal cancer-138% increased risk
  • Kidney cancer-53% increased risk
  • Pancreatic cancer-24% increased risk

Obese people are less likely to seek cancer screenings-according to Johns Hopkins, they found that women with a high BMI were 38% less likely to receive PAP testing for cervical cancer.

Weight gain also increases women’s risk for breast cancer, at least among post-menopausal women.

The good news about obesity and cancer is women who lost about 22# postmenopausal , had a 57% lower risk of breast cancer compared to women who maintained their weight. Post-menopausal women may find this an incentive to lose weight.

The American Cancer Society has guidelines for Nutrition and physical activity for cancer prevention:

  • Achieve and maintain a healthy weight throughout life
  • Be Physically active. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity active each week ( or a combination of these)
  • Eat a healthy diet, with an emphasis on plant foods. Aim for at least 2 1/2 cups of fruits and vegetables each day. Choose whole grains instead of refined grains.
  • IF you drink alcohol, limit your intake to no more than one drink for women and 2 per men.

The bottom line is clear that obesity can directly affect cancer development, detection, diagnosis, severity of disease, treatment and mortality. So let’s get the word out that being at a healthy weight can help prevent some cancers.

And of course, remember to eat your veggies.

A Healthy You is a regular column about nutrition, healthy living and cancer care. It is written by Cindy Gates, RD and LD and the Cancer Center’s Oncology dietitian, herbalist and Certified Wellness Coach.

Post by Robin McGinty

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