Can Obesity Cause Cancer?

Over the last few years, several studies have begun to shed light on the connection between cancer and obesity. For overweight people, the news isn’t good. In the U.S., as many as 100,000 cancer cases diagnosed each year could be prevented if people simply lost weight. That’s about 6% of all of the cancer cases. With obesity and overweight increasing in virtually every developed country in the world, these are numbers that we need to take very seriously.

Obesity and Cancer

People with obesity tend to be more unhealthy in a variety of categories, not just when it comes to cancer risk. They also have higher incidence of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, stroke, sleep apnea, and high blood pressure. Additionally, people with obesity tend to have a lower quality-of-life, and they often face bias and other social problems.

In other words, while obesity directly contributes to certain forms of cancer, other aspects of an obese person’s lifestyle certainly do not help.

How does it happen? Basically, excess fat causes the body to produce excessive amounts of hormones such as insulin and estrogen. When there is too much of these chemicals in the body, certain types of cancer are more likely to develop. Meanwhile, being obese also weakens the body’s natural cancer-fighting mechanisms.

Which Types of Cancer are Caused by Obesity?

Among obese women, there is an increased incidence of breast cancer and uterine cancer. When it comes to uterine cancer, obesity may account for as much as 40 percent of all cases. The connection is not so strong with breast cancer, but researchers say that it is definitely there, particularly in post-menopausal women.

In men, obesity is associated with higher rates of colon cancer. This connection does not exist in women. Doctors think that the fact that men store excess fat around the abdomen, while women store it in other areas, is the reason for this difference. Something about having excess fat around the body’s mid-section contributes to contamination of the digestive system, leading to colon cancer.

Finally, the other major type of cancer that is commonly associated with obesity is esophageal cancer, particularly a form called adenocarcinoma. While this requires more study, many doctors think that the prevalence of acid reflux in obese people may have something to do with this type of cancer.

by Rodney Ian


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