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Body Fat Linked to Higher Cancer Risks


Updated June 07, 2014

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Being overweight can increase your risk of cancer by 50% That is the conclusion of a study by the American Cancer Society of 900,000 men and women published in the April 24, 2003 edition of the "New England Journal of Medicine."

The study is being touted as a definitive link between obesity and increased risk of cancer. Weight control could reduce cancer deaths in the US by 14-20% and save the lives of 90,000 a year.

Body Mass Index Linked to Cancer Risk

The study used body mass index - the ratio of height to weight. Increasing body mass index was linked to increased cancer risk.
Normal: 18.5 - 24.9
Overweight: 25 - 29.9
Obese: 30 and over
What is your Body Mass Index?
Body Mass Index Calculator

How Does Being Fat Increase Cancer Risk?

Researchers speculated on several ways that being overweight might increase risk of cancer. Body fat increases the amount of estrogen in the blood, which stimulates growth of cancers of the female reproductive system and many breast cancers. It increases the amount of insulin in the blood which also stimulates cell growth. It increases the risk of acid reflux which is related to esophageal cancer. Besides stimulating the development of cancer, being overweight makes it harder to detect cancer and to treat it. Lumps are less obvious and it is more difficult to adjust doses of chemotherapy and radiation or to find tumors to remove surgically.

Can Losing Weight Decrease Your Risk of Cancer?

Yes, says the lead researcher, Dr. Eugenia Calle, on the American Cancer Society web site. Losing weight returns insulin and estrogen levels to normal and decreases acid reflux and gallstone formation. This should result in a decreased risk for cancer.

How to Lose Weight?

Losing weight and maintaining a normal body mass index is a challenge for Americans. Many lose weight but cannot keep it off. It takes a change of lifestyle to stay at a normal BMI. Other studies have shown increased longevity and reduced cancer risk for those who exercise 30-60 minutes a day. If you find an activity you enjoy and stick with doing it each day, you can reduce your risks. If you are overweight, combine this with a sensible change in your eating habits for life in order to have a steady weight loss you can maintain.

Weight Loss Tools

Walk of Life 10-Week Program
This free 10-week program sends you a daily walking lesson and walking workout, a healthy recipe, nutrition tip, motivation tip, and link to a supportive discussion group. You can follow it online or receive it by email.

Calories Per Day Calculator
Find out how many calories you burn each day to maintain your current weight. For weight loss, make a food plan for 500 calories less.

Ideal Weight Calculator

Body Fat Percentage Calculator

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