In the past decade, there has been a sharp increase in both adult and childhood obesity. Recent studies done by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease have shown that about 68.8% of American adults and 31.8% of American children are either overweight or obese.
While this is a huge issue, it becomes even more of a concern when the correlation between being overweight and the increased risk of cancer is considered.
Obesity has long been associated with the risk of cancer. While different types of cancers are more common than others when it comes to obesity, the fact that the two correlate is cause for extreme concern.
Types of Cancer and Obesity
As mentioned above, certain cancers are more common in obese individuals. Some of these cancers include:
While cancers caused by obesity aren’t limited to the types above, those nine cancers are the ones more frequently seen in obese patients.
Association Between Obesity and Cancer
Extensive studies are looking in to why obesity increases the likelihood of cancer. While there is still much to learn on the topic, there are a few explanations that have been proven at this time.
Obese women, especially those who have gone through menopause, have a much higher risk of breast cancer than women at healthy weights. This is due to the fact that fat tissue releases extremely high levels of estrogen into the system.
These high levels of estrogen have long been associated with an increased risk of breast cancer.
Another association can be found when looking at obesity and the likelihood of increased insulin levels. Insulin levels are typically high in obese people, as is seen in the diabetes problem that the obese face. High insulin levels are known to promote the growth of tumors.
Obese people also tend to have unbalanced hormone levels, which will either prevent or increase the growth of certain cells. Leptin is a hormone that increases cell growth. This hormone is found in very high levels in the obese.
On the other end of the spectrum is adiponectin, which helps control the growth of cells. Adiponectin is more scarce in obese people than in those of a healthy weight.
All these issues, and many more, combine in the bodies of the obese to create an environment that is more likely to promote the growth of cancerous cells.
While the idea of contracting cancer is scary for anyone, it’s even scarier for those who know that their obesity increases their risk for getting cancer.
Thankfully, by losing weight and becoming healthier, the probability of getting cancer drops.
Studies have shown that obese people who have received surgeries to lose weight have much lower rates of cancers that are caused by obesity than the obese who maintained their weight.
Unfortunately, surgery for weight loss isn’t an option for everyone. On the bright side, there are other ways to lose weight and help prevent cancer, such as healthy diet exercise and taking weight loss supplements.
Weight Loss and Cancer Prevention
When most people look at weight loss, they consider diet and exercise together as a way to make a lifestyle change.
While both diet and exercise are extremely important to getting to and maintaining a healthy weight, to experience weight loss that will prevent cancer, diet takes precedence.
The first reason weight loss diets can help prevent cancer is that most diets emphasis having a fruit and vegetable based diet.
Fruits and vegetables are full of fiber, low in fat, and full of nutrients and vitamins that can help fight cancer. Some studies have found that diets high in fruits help protect against colon cancer.
Non-starchy vegetables, like greens and beans, have been linked to lowering the risk of stomach cancer. Another study looked at fruits and vegetables that were high in Vitamin C and found they protect against esophageal cancer.
An extremely important part of weight loss to prevent cancer is to have enough fiber in the body. While a plant based diet will usually provide enough fiber, some might need a little more, especially when beginning to lose weight.
Fiber is extremely important for cleaning out the digestive system and keeping food and waste moving through the body.
What’s vital about fiber is that it clears out cancer-causing chemicals and compounds that tend to sit in the guts of obese people. By clearing all this out, people can lose weight while fighting the risks of cancer.
The best part about adding more fruits and vegetables to an obese persons’ diet is that they won’t just help protect against cancer, they’ll also be crucial to the weight loss process.
And, as the diet becomes a permanent lifestyle, the less likely it is a person will contract cancer from too much estrogen or insulin in the body.
There is no cure for cancer at this time. While scientists are working hard to come up with solutions on how to prevent and better treat cancer, it’s up to individuals to take control of their health.
By taking specific steps and making certain lifestyle changes, people can minimize their chances of getting cancer.
Because so many cancers are the result of poor lifestyle choices, it comes as no surprise that a change in lifestyle can lower the risk of cancer.
The combination of bad eating habits, lack of exercise, and overindulgence in smoking or alcohol can result in obesity. And, unfortunately, obesity can increase the likelihood of cancer.
However, any obese person can, at any point in their life, take hold of their health. By being more cautious about what they eat and increasing their daily activity, the obese can begin their weight loss journey and start moving towards a more risk free life.
Switching to a plant based diet and exercising more are usually a great start to losing weight. However, for those who have serious health concerns, a health professional should be consulted before any drastic changes are made.