Obesity and Cancer

March 23, 2010 by  
Filed under health

There has been a great deal of press written in the last few months on how obesity affects our health as individuals and as a nation. Just yesterday, in the LA Times, I found more on a link between obesity and cancer.
An increasing number of studies are finding that overweight and obese people are more likely to develop cancer of various kinds. At least half a dozen types of cancer are believed to be directly affected by weight. 

”As time goes on, we’re realizing that obesity is related to more cancers than we originally suspected,” said Dr. Donald Hensrud, an associate professor of preventive medicine and nutrition at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine.

Researchers are unable to prove that obesity actually causes cancer because requiring people to either gain weight or keep their weight down in clinical trials would be impossible.

Still, the evidence is “convincing” for a cause-and-effect relationship between obesity and postmenopausal breast, colon, endometrial, esophageal, kidney and pancreas cancer, according to a 2007 report from the World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research. The report also cited obesity as a “probable” cause of gallbladder cancer.

 Scientists aren’t sure how obesity might affect cancer risk, but “there are some plausible biological mechanisms by which this may occur,” said Dr. Patricia Ganz, director of cancer prevention and control research at UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center.
One popular explanation is that extra weight boosts the body’s production of hormones such as estrogen, insulin and insulin-like growth factor. All of  these have the potential to promote the growth of certain tumors.

Another possibility is that fatness contributes to cancer growth by causing cells to divide more rapidly.

 The suspected higher risk of gallbladder cancer might be explained by the increased tendency of obese people to develop gallstones. These stones cause inflammation that could promote cancer.

No matter what researchers ultimately reveal about the role of weight in cancer, weight control remains an essential part of staying healthy. 

”If body fatness were totally unrelated to cancer, the message would still be the same, because of the importance of weight control for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, joint pain and other conditions,” said Dr. Tim Byers, a professor of epidemiology at the Colorado School of Public Health.
One thing is clear, we need to get a better handle on our weight as individuals and as a nation. The better we handle our own weight, the more oomph we can experience in our own lives. If you have more interest, you can read the entire article at:LA Times

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