The Link Between Obesity and Cancer

The Link Between Obesity and CancerObesity increases your risk for developing cancer. In fact, the American Cancer Society says that excess body weight contributes to as many as one in five of all cancer-related deaths. Bariatric surgery can help you reduce your risk for developing cancer.

Researchers have linked being overweight or obese with an increased risk for many types of cancer, including cancers of the:

  • Breast in post-menopausal women
  • Colon or rectum, known as colorectal cancer
  • Endometrium, which is the lining of the uterus
  • Esophagus, which is the tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach
  • Pancreas
  • Kidney

Although the connection is less clear, obesity may also increase your risk for other types of cancers, such as cancer of the gallbladder or liver, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, aggressive forms of prostate cancer, and cancers of the cervix or ovaries.

Excessive belly fat, which usually presents itself as a larger waistline, can increase the risk for colorectal cancer even in people who are not obese. A large waistline may also increase the risk for developing breast cancer in post-menopausal women, and cancers of the endometrium and pancreas in both genders.

Obesity may stimulate the development of cancer cells in several ways. Excess body fat may negatively affect immune function and inflammation, or cause imbalances of insulin, estrogen, and other hormones. Many people do not know that fat is extremely active in excreting hormones and chemicals that interfere with many normal body functions. As fat increases so does the amount of these unnecessary hormones circulating in the body. Obesity may also interfere with proteins that influence proper cell division.

Reducing your weight brings with it a host of health benefits.  Cancer prevention is just one more benefit to add to the list.

The Definition of Obesity

An obese person has an abnormally high and unhealthy percentage of body fat.

Healthcare professionals measure obesity through the body mass index (BMI) ratio, which is the proportion of body fat in relation to the rest of the body. They calculate BMI by dividing a person’s weight in kilograms by their height in meters, squared. Higher BMI readings indicate greater amounts of body fat in relation to height.

According to the National Institute of Health, someone with a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9 has a normal weight, a person with a BMI of 25 to 29.9 is overweight, and anyone with a BMI of 30 or more is obese.

Bariatric Surgery Reduces Obesity and Risk for Cancer

Fortunately, bariatric surgery can reduce body fat to restore BMI to healthy proportions in a way that may reduce the risk for cancer. Bariatric surgery procedures such as lap band and sleeve gastrectomy reduce the amount of food that you can consume, thereby helping you lose weight without feeling hungry.

Contact your local bariatric surgery specialist to learn more about the association between obesity and cancer.

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