• Does body weight increase cancer risk?

    on Jun 3rd, 2017

Obesity has a very high prevalence in our community and almost 7 out of 10 adult American are involved. It is defined as Body Mass Index (BMI) greater than 30kg/m­2 which is calculated by dividing a person’s weight (in kilograms) by their height (in meters) squared. BMI provides a more accurate measure of obesity or being overweight than total body weight by itself.





Under weight

18.5 – 24.9


25.0 – 29.9

Over weight

30.0 >


Table - 1: Adult National Institutes of Health (NIH) guideline based on BMI

Obesity and being overweight may cause significant number of health issues such as diabetes, hypertension and obstructive sleep apnea. Also, it is known to be one of the leading causes of cancer. More importantly, it seems to have a very critical role for survivors including their risk of other chronic diseases, tolerating and minimizing risk of surgical intervention, or chemo and radiation therapy. Thus, with a high prevalence, it would put our general population in a very high risk. A 2013 AICR (American Institute for Cancer Research) survey found more than half of Americans, 52 percent, are unaware that overweight and obesity link to higher cancer risk.

Body fat is a metabolically active and essential tissue. There are distinct types of fat, each with its own characteristics and functions. For example, the fat located deep within our belly or abdomen is called visceral fat. Visceral fat is an independent risk factor for colorectal and breast cancers. It also may indicate higher risk of metabolic abnormalities that can play a role in type 2 diabetes and other chronic diseases. Scientists report more overweight people carry higher risk. That means for those who are overweight and obese, losing weight and keeping that weight off may lower cancer risk.

Obesity and overweight may affect any type of cancer in our body. The most common ones are:



Colon and rectum

Breast (particularly after menopause)

Endometrium (lining of the uterus)




The percentage of cases attributed to obesity varied widely for different cancer types but it potentially could be as high as 40% for some cancers, particularly endometrial cancer and esophageal adenocarcinoma.

Several possible mechanisms have been suggested to explain the association of obesity with increased risk of cancers. The most common ones are:

  1. Fat tissue produces excess amounts of estrogen, which is associated with the risk of breast, endometrial, and some other cancers.
  2. Obese individuals carry high levels of insulin and insulin-like growth factor-1 (known as hyperinsulinemia or insulin resistance), which may promote the development of certain tumors.
  3. Fat cells produce hormones that may stimulate or inhibit cell growth. For example, leptin, which is more abundant in obese people, seems to promote cell proliferation, whereas adiponectin, which is less abundant in obese people, may have antiproliferative effects.
  4. Obese people often have chronic low-level inflammation, which has been associated with increased cancer risk.


A projection of the future health and economic burden of obesity in 2030 estimated that continuation of existing trends in obesity will lead to about 500,000 additional cases of cancer in the United States by 2030. This analysis also found that if every adult reduced their BMI by 1 percent, this would prevent the increase in the number and in fact decrease cancer risk significantly.

Protect yourself with eat smart and move more.


At Bluepoint Medical Associates, offers a comprehensive weight-loss program that will guide you through every step – from evaluating which path is right for you, to nutrition and exercise education, emotional support, insurance approval, eating right for life, and extensive follow-up and aftercare support that is designed with your weight loss success in mind. Make an appointment at http://www.bluepointmed.com/

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