Cancer is becoming more common than ever before and everywhere we turn there are cases of cancer-related deaths. Cancer is a genetic disease that is caused by changes to the gene. These genetic changes that cause cancer can sometimes be inherited from our parents or arise as a result of errors during cell division or damage to DNA caused by various environmental factors such as tobacco smoke or harmful radiations. Where does obesity fit into this picture of gene-environment association? Obesity is one of the biggest preventable causes of cancer especially in developed countries such as UK and US where almost 1 in 20 cases are due to excess weight.
The Burden of Heaviness
A new study in the United States shows that almost 7% of cancer deaths and 8% of all cancer are due to obesity/overweight. A new report reflecting statistics between 2011 and 2015 on people 30 years and older shows that 4.7% (37,670) of cancers in men and 9.6% (74,690) of those in women are due to excess body weight. Overweight or obesity is the common cause for cancers of the breast (in women after menopause), colon and rectum, kidney, pancreas, esophagus and endometrium and also holds a good share of responsibility in raising the risk of gallbladder, liver, cervix, ovary, myeloma, lymphoma and prostate cancer. While the risks are clearly proved via different study results the underlying association between body weight and cancer is yet to be unraveled. For instance, breast cancer risk in obese/overweight women is greater only in those women who have crossed menopause and not in others. But studies don’t give us convincing theories for this. Yet, many studies have analyzed the reason behind obesity/overweight increasing risk of cancer and their possible theories include:
There are quite a few risk factors of developing cancer such as age and genes that you cannot change and those such as tobacco, obesity or radiations that can cause the disease but be sure to understand that presence of these factors does not mean that the person will 100% develop cancer in course of time. ‘Where’ fat is stored also determines the risk of cancer. Too much of fat around the belly or an individual with an apple-shaped body is at a higher risk of bowel, kidney, esophageal, pancreatic and breast cancer risk.
Effects of Weight Loss
Research is still underway on the impact of weight loss and the risk of developing cancer. Certain studies show that weight loss decreases the risk of breast cancer, aggressive forms of prostate cancer and other cancers too. That’s because obese/overweight people who lose weight decrease the production of certain hormones such as insulin, estrogen and androgens that affect cancer risk. Though we don’t have clear indications it is always beneficial to lose weight and stay on healthy weight ranges which help in decreasing the risk of diabetes and heart disease too. Losing even 5% of your weight is a good start and helps your body to become healthier and fitter. Registered dietitian nutritionists at www.firsteatright.com can help you in your weight loss journey by suggesting customized diet plans that are scientific and practical.
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.