Link Between Obesity and Cancer

How Obesity Increases the Risk of Certain Cancers

Much scientific research is devoted to the study of cancer, its causes, treatments, and a potential cure. While some people are unfortunately born with medical conditions and genetic markers that predispose them toward developing certain types of cancers, other people develop cancer from preventable causes. A recent study from Cancer Research UK found that within 25 years, obesity will overtake smoking as the leading preventable cause of cancer among women in the UK.  Men face a similar risk. It’s crucial for everyone to understand the links between obesity and certain cancers.

How Does Obesity Cause Cancer?

Data collected from more than 85,000 women in the United States indicated that women who were heavy as teens and young adults had a pronounced increase in risk of developing colon cancer by age 50. Additionally, cancer researchers at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York believe that about 22% of early onset cancer diagnoses indicate those diagnosed could have prevented early onset colon cancer by maintaining healthier weights. It’s important to note that this study does not necessarily prove causation, but it does indicate a very strong correlation between obesity and early onset cancer and an increased risk of cancer later in life.

Cancer researchers point to many possible links between obesity and cancer. For example, obese people experience chronic low-level inflammation in various parts of the body. This eventually leads to DNA damage and cancer growth. Fat tissue also increases estrogen production, which can interfere with the body’s natural hormone balance and lead to many reproductive cancers. Obese individuals typically also have high insulin levels in their blood, which can contribute to kidney, prostate, colon, and endometrial cancers.

Heightened Risk of Cancers Throughout the Body

Research from the National Cancer Institute indicates that obesity may carry an increased risk of other types of cancer, as well. Obese and overweight women are two to four times more likely to develop endometrial cancer. Obese and overweight people are generally twice as likely to develop esophageal adenocarcinoma, a cancer of the esophagus. Extremely obese individuals are more than four times more likely to develop esophageal adenocarcinoma.

Obesity can affect many of the vital organs of the body and leave them susceptible to the formation of cancer cells. Obese individuals are twice as likely to develop gastric cardia cancer (a cancer that infects the upper portion of the stomach near the esophagus) and liver cancer. Obesity also doubles the risk of kidney and renal cell cancers and increases the risk of pancreatic cancer by 1.5 times the usual rate. Obese people are 30% more likely to develop colorectal cancer than individuals with normal body weight.

Curbing obesity and losing weight isn’t just a matter of looks – it may also be a matter of life and death. It’s never too late to make a change.  If you have a body mass index (BMI) of 40 or more, or of 35 or more and an obesity-related health condition, you may be eligible for weight loss surgery.  Click to learn if you are a candidate.  If you have not been successful on a medically supervised weight loss program, bariatric surgery may be a good option for you.  Set up a consultation with our bariatric surgeon Dr. Preeti Malladi by calling (214) 242-9727 today.