Overweight? You may be at higher risk of developing cancer

Need incentive to lose the gut? Read this.

Here’s a startling statistic for you: one-third of the 550,000 Americans who die following a battle with cancer each year have cancer that can be linked to being overweight, having a poor diet and not getting enough exercise.

Another one-third of cancer deaths each year are related to smoking cigarettes.

The bottom line? Your lifestyle may be increasing your personal risk of developing – and dying from – cancer. The good news is that you have control. By making some lifestyle changes, you can dramatically reduce your risk of certain cancers. In fact, a study conducted at the Harvard School of Public Health reports that almost half of call cancer deaths are avoidable!

Have we motivated you to evaluate your lifestyle yet?

According to a spokesperson for the American Institute of Cancer Research, forty percent of breast cancer cases per year in our country could have been prevented. That’s about 70,000 cases! This is important information, especially on the cusp of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which kicks off tomorrow.

A study out of Germany published in the Archives of Internal Medicine in 2009 revealed that people who developed new and healthy lifestyle habits, like exercising regularly and quitting smoking, were able to reduce their risk of cancer by almost 40%. Of course, changing your lifestyle can be difficult, especially if you are addicted to cigarettes, drugs or alcohol, or even food. No doctor will tell you that it is easy to make changes, but they will tell you that it will be worth it.

Obesity and Cancer

The American Institute of Cancer Research states that 100,000 cases of cancer the colon, pancreas, gallbladder, breast, kidney and esophagus are connected to obesity. For women in particular, this is because fat cells store and produce estrogen. Post-menopausal women who are overweight are especially at risk, as the increased production of estrogen following menopause may lead to breast and uterine cancer.

Fat also increases the amount of Insulin-Like Growth Factor, which is also linked to cancer development. A 2003 article written by D. LeRoith and published by the National Library of Medicine claims that people with high levels of Insulin-Like Growth Factor II in particular are more likely to be diagnosed with breast, colon, lung and prostate cancers. Insulin-Like Growth Factor II may promote the growth of cancerous tumors, and Insulin-Like Growth Factor I has been shown to react with cancer cells as well. In addition, more recent studies report that people who suffer from chronic inflammation as a result of being overweight are also more likely to experience cancer.

Michael Thun of the American Cancer Society’s department of Epidemiology and Surveillance says that “the combination of the effects of hormones, mechanical and chemical inflammation” can be deadly, often leading to a cancer diagnosis in the overweight.

Unfortunately, says Thun, there’s little scientific evidence that supports the fact that losing weight will reduce your risk of developing cancer. The fact remains that maintaining a healthy weight and never becoming overweight is the best way to avoid cancer. This begins when we’re children, Thun asserts.

It’s no secret that a majority of Americans are overweight, and a high percentage are considered obese. The American Institute of Cancer Research says that a “sedentary lifestyle is a big contributor to cancer,” especially colon cancer. The connection between this cancer in particular and a healthy weight is extremely apparent, as studies prove that people who exercise regularly reduce their likelihood of developing colon cancer by half, even if their workouts are less intense. Just three or four hours of walking per week has been shown to decrease one’s chance of getting colon cancer, as exercise helps food digest quicker. The faster food passes through the colon, the less risk we have of developing colon cancer.

When it comes to breast cancer, the Journal of the American Medical Association claims that just a half an hour of walking daily could lower one’s risk by 20%! Women who were already maintaining a healthy weight reduced their risk by almost twice that percent.

Just 30 minutes of exercise daily – walking, jogging, and other cardio exercise – is crucial to decreasing your risk of knowing cancer. Not to mention there are other benefits of daily exercise, including a healthy weight, happier mood, better sex life and increased productivity!

Alcohol and Drugs and Cancer

Most people understand the risks associated with consuming too much alcohol. What they may not understand is that “heavy” alcohol consumption increases the risk of several cancers of the upper airway and digestive tract, according to Thun. This includes cancer of the larynx, liver, mouth and esophagus. Some researchers believe that even drinking alcohol in moderation can increase a person’s overall cancer risk. Women who are experiencing menopause and drink moderately may be more likely to develop breast cancer, according to recent studies. Scientists think that perhaps estrogen and certain genetic factors may affect a particular enzyme that breaks down alcohol in the bodies of menopausal women.

As a general rule, doctors recommend no more than two alcoholic drinks per day for men, and just one for women, as a part of an anticancer lifestyle. Women with menopause should avoid alcohol, especially if they are overweight.

Cigarettes and Cancer

We hope you’ve quit smoking by now, but if you haven’t, read this carefully. The National Cancer Institute reports that 180,000 Americans die annually from smoking-related cancers. This includes people who have developed cancer as a result of exposure to second cigarette smoke! Smoking is, without a doubt, the “most proven” cause of cancer. In fact, it’s linked to fifteen different forms of cancer, including cancer of the mouth, stomach, colon, kidney, lung, liver and even the cervix. If you’re wondering what makes cigarette smoke so extremely toxic, check out our recent news post, highlighting its unbelievably toxic contents. The same article also explains the link between breast cancer in women and cigarette smoking.

Smoking is also linked to heart disease. As soon as you quit smoking, doctors report that your health improves. If you haven’t quit yet, seek out support resources and make it happen. You’re not only endangering your own health, but the health of those around you.

A number of other factors increase your likelihood of developing cancer, but as more and more studies prove the connection between being overweight and cancer, now is the time to speak with your doctor about losing weight the healthy way, and then maintaining the weight that is appropriate for your body type.


Washington Post

National Cancer Institute

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