The Connection Between Obesity and Cancer

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Obesity has been positively linked to a host of serious health conditions and diseases, and there is growing evidence that having a high body mass index (BMI) increases the risk of developing certain types of cancer, including colon, breast, kidney, and pancreatic. Experts also believe that being overweight may be linked to cervical, ovarian, liver, gallbladder and prostate cancers.

According to the World Cancer Research Fund, approximately “20% of all cancers diagnosed in the US are related to body fatness”, and “excess body weight contributes to as many as 1 out of 5 of all cancer-related deaths.”


Cancer Risk Increases With High Levels of Body Fat

While other factors, such as physical inactivity, alcohol consumption, and poor nutrition also contribute to an elevated cancer risk, being either overweight has been scientifically proven to increase one’s chances of developing a variety of cancers, including:

  • Breast (in post-menopausal women)
  • Uterine, cervical, and ovarian
  • Kidney
  • Colorectal
  • Pancreatic and gallbladder
  • Thyroid
  • Esophageal, head, and neck
  • Liver
  • Multiple
  • Non-Hodgkin lymphoma
  • Gallbladder


How Obesity Affects Cancer Development

Numerous studies have attempted to pinpoint the impact of obesity and cancer rates, and why people with excess body fat are at a significantly higher risk of developing cancers in comparison to people who have an optimal BMI.

According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the connection between being overweight or obese and the increased risk of developing cancer may be attributed to factors such as:

  • Elevated levels of both insulin and insulin growth factor-1 that can fuel growth of certain types of cancers
  • Chronic, long-term inflammation that is common among people with a high BMI
  • Increased estrogen production generated by excess fat tissue (associated with breast, uterine, and ovarian cancers)
  • Compromised immune system functioning as a result of co-morbid conditions related to obesity such as Type-2 diabetes

Bariatric Surgery Reduces Cancer Risk

The American Society of Clinical Oncology reports that “maintaining a healthy weight is associated with a lower risk of cancer and of cancer recurrence in cancer survivors,” and studies have shown that bariatric surgery can reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancer among people who are obese.

According to the U.S. National Cancer Institute, “Obese people who have LAP-BAND, gastric bypass, and gastric sleeve surgery often experience a 30% or greater reduction in their body fat levels.”

By comparison, people who rely on exercise and/or diet alone usually achieve an average of 10% reduction in their body mass index. When it comes to the relationship between obesity and cancer, lowering your BMI to optimal levels is key to reducing your risk of developing one of the many types of cancer linked to excess body fat.

Here at Olde Del Mar Surgical, our team of skilled, experienced bariatric surgeons can help reduce the cancer risk faced by people who are overweight or obese. To learn more about the effects of obesity and cancer rate and about our range of weight loss surgical options and post-surgical support services, contact us today.

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