Link between Cancer and Obesity
For years personal physicians have extolled the many benefits of exercise. In addition to keeping the body look fit and trim, it can also help reduce stress levels and lower the risk of deadly diseases and disorders like diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Recently, doctors and scientists alike have started paying closer attention to another deadly disease they have long suspected has an association with body weight. The disease is cancer and it is one of the world’s deadliest and most common diseases. And while studies are still being done and data must be analyzed, there is a growing body of evidence that suggests that there is a strong link between certain types of cancer and obesity. The types of cancer that have recently been linked to obesity include: colon, breast, kidney, and prostate. There is even evidence that suggest that some of the other, rarer forms of cancer like gall bladder and esophageal cancer are more common in obese individuals. One thing we know for certain is that healthy and fit people are far less likely to be diagnosed with cancer than overweight or obese ones.
Breast cancer is easily the most common type of cancer in the world with more than 7 million deaths attributed to the disease each year. Due to its prevalence, there is significantly more data, evidence and literature that has been publish on the link between breast cancer and obesity. One study discovered that obese women who are post menopausal are nearly three times as likely of being diagnosed with the disease. The reason that menopausal women were observed in this particular study has to do with fact that menopause causes most women to gain weight. This can be explained by the female hormone estrogen, which is produced in the ovaries before menopause, but must be obtained from body fat after menopause, when the ovaries shut down. Increased exposure to estrogen has been shown to encourage cell division and rapid growth, which is often associated with an increased risk of cancer. So, the heavier a post menopausal woman is, the more estrogen will be used by the body, without proper regulation. Many doctors believe that this is the key link between obesity and breast cancer.
Breast cancer is also one of the deadliest killers of pre-menopausal women. This fact has lead doctors to investigate other ideas and theories. One of the most popular is that the cancer culprit is insulin, since obese individuals often produce far greater amounts of insulin than people who maintain a healthy weight. It is not, however, believed that an excess of insulin alone can cause cancer, but rather that it encourages rapid growth of certain cancers, which may be why obese people are far more likely to die from breast cancer.
Though it is does not have the same level of awareness as breast cancer, colon cancer is an extremely deadly disease that is currently the third most common cancer in the United States. In a number of respected studies, researchers have pointed to an excess consumption of calories as the primary risk factor for the disease. As we mentioned, when a person gains weight, his body produces more insulin, and in time, if he does not lose the weight, there is a good chance that his body will build up a resistance to insulin. The reason that this is important is because insulin is used by the body to perform several important functions. You see, in a person who maintains a healthy weight, insulin helps the body break down carbohydrates (glucose) to promote healthy functions such as muscle growth. But in obese people who are no longer sensitive to insulin, their bodies often cannot break down carbohydrates in an efficient manner. It also means that if you are obese, it is doubly difficult to lose the weight because your body will simply store these foods at fat instead of using them.
Recently, the American Cancer Society released the results of their largest study to date concerning the link between cancer and obesity. The study revealed that of the nearly one million participants—none of whom had cancer at the time— more than 50,000 of them had died from some form of cancer. That number alone is not surprising, as it is in line with national statistics. However, what was surprising, in fact shocking, was that more than twenty percent of these cancer deaths had something to do with the patient’s weight, i.e., they were either overweight or obese.