Body Weight

Body Weight

Controlling Body Weight Reduces Risk for Cancer

While there are various risk factors that may contribute to cancer, being overweight or obese is one of the leading causes of the disease.

Being overweight or obese means there are excess fats in the body, which lead to chronic inflammations and raise the levels of certain cancer-related hormones in the body.

The immune system and its ability to battle cancer cells can be disrupted by hormones that these fat cells produce from their metabolic activities. These hormones include insulin, insulin growth factor-1 (IGF-1) and estrogen. High levels of these hormones are linked with a higher risk of developing up to 13 types of cancer.

For instance, half of patients with endometrial cancer are found to have excess body weight. Becoming overweight in adulthood is associated with esophagus, pancreas, liver, colorectal, breast and kidney cancers. If fat accumulates around the waist, it increases the chances of developing breast and uterine cancers.

Being overweight or obese in a lifetime plays a role in the development of cancer. For example, over 90% of new obesity-associated cancers occur in men and women who are 50 years or older. Women who become overweight in the teenage years, may face a higher risk of developing ovarian cancer before menopause, compared to those who are overweight in the adulthood.

To prevent cancers that are associated with obesity, it is recommended to start checking if the weight is in a healthy range. The most widely used measurement is the Body Mass Index (BMI). The healthy BMI range is between 18.5 and 24.9.

Apart from BMI, setting a body weight target to reach the goal is also an effective way. Losing only 5-10% of the total body weight can reduce the risk of cancer development.

For those who are overweight or obese, lowering their BMI to a healthy range and losing weight are a great way to reduce fats in the body. This can be achieved by eating healthy food and increasing physical activities.

However, if diet and exercise alone do not work, health care providers may prescribe medications for weight loss.

For those who have a BMI of at least 40, or 35 or more with a severe health condition, doctors may recommend weight loss surgery, known as bariatric surgery, to reduce the size of the stomach.

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