Obesity: a less recognized cancer risk

Amanda FloecknerHealthy Living

It is well know that certain behaviors and conditions may cause cancer. A few of the best known cancer causing habits and conditions include:

1.) Smoking and its powerful link to lung cancer
2.) Sunburn and sun exposure that can result in skin cancer
3.) Viruses, including hepatitis C which is a cause of liver cancer, and Human Papilloma Virus, (HPV) that causes most cervical cancer.

What you may not be aware of, is that according to the American Cancer Society, about 1 in 3 cancer deaths in the United States is connected to obesity, inactivity and bad nutrition.  The most strongly associated condition is excess body weight, which is linked to as many as 1 in every 5 cancer related deaths.

Obesity is clearly linked to cancers of the breast, endometrium, colon, pancreas, kidney and esophagus.  It may also contribute to other cancers including gallbladder, lymphoma, ovarian, and aggressive forms of prostate cancer.

The reasons for the increased risk are not completely understood, but with growing awareness that obesity is another risk factor for developing cancer, there is all the more reason to work on ways to get moving, eat healthy, and maintain a healthy weight.  A healthy weight is defined as a BMI from 18.5-24.9, overweight is a BMI of 25-29.9, and obese is a BMI over 30.  You can calculate YOUR BMI here.

If you are able to decrease your body weight to a healthy BMI, (18.5 – 24.9) you lower your risk for developing cancer related to obesity. Decreasing your body weight not only lowers your risk of developing cancer, but other chronic health conditions including, coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, type 2 diabetes, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea, gallstones and reproductive problems. Interested in losing weight but don’t know where to start? Here are some easy tips for long term weight loss:

1.) Approach weight loss as a lifestyle, by setting goals, eating healthy foods and becoming more physically active.
2.) Maintaining a modest weight loss over a longer period is better than losing a lot of weight and regaining it. [JK1] 3)  Make a goal to increase vegetables and fruits into your diet.  Aim to have them cover half of your plate.
4)  Cut sugary drinks and sodas out of your diet.  Eat whole fruits, drink milk or plant-based milk, or water.

Continue reading our blog posts for the next chapter, with more tips and information.

Still have questions about what’s right for your weight loss plan? Make an appointment to talk with your primary care provider.

By Susan Jacot Butler, MSN, ARNP, Merle Cancer Care Nurse