The first biggest preventable cause of cancer is widely known. What is it? Smoking! But what is the second biggest preventable cause of cancer today? Not so many people know the answer as revealed in an article titled: The public doesn’t know obesity causes cancer, and that’s really worrying.
Before I go further, let me tell you that studies have confirmed that overweight or obesity is the second biggest preventable cause of cancer.
The good news is that, the biggest and second biggest cause of cancer, are both preventable. This implies that by conscious choices, one can prevent both- smoking and overweight.
Not long ago, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) released a report establishing that there is now strong evidence linking body weight to even more cancer types than was previously believed to be. The agency through the research now establishes that overweight can be linked to a total of 13 types of cancer.
What is Overweight?
What is overweight and what evidence is there to show that overweight actually may cause cancer?
Before answering this question, it is important to point out that although cancer risk is increased in people who are overweight, this does not necessarily imply they will definitely develop cancer. A number of different factors will affect the risk of cancer. These factors include whether the individual smoke, how much alcohol the individual drinks, the individual’s genes disposition
So back to the question on who is regarded as overweight?
A person may be regarded as underweight or overweight based on a statistical measure. This statistical measure uses the weight of a person in relation to the individual’s height to determine if a person is underweight or overweight. This is calculated by dividing one’s weight in kilograms by the square of one’s height in meters and used as an indicator of obesity and underweight. This measure is called body mass index (BMI)
Mathematically, BMI =Bodyweight/square of height (kg/m2)
Below is how BMI relates to weight.
Having a BMI of below 18.5 means a person is underweight. A BMI of l18.5 – 24.9 implies a normal, healthy weight. A BMI of over 25kg/m2 is overweight. While having a BMI of 30 means a person is obese. For a BMI of 40 and above, is a case of morbid obesity.
For most adults, BMI is a fairly accurate measure of weight – unless you are among the few who are carrying a lot of muscle, like professional athletes.
The report by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NIH) shows that there seems to be a direct proportionality between BMI and cancer. This implies that the higher a person’s BMI is, the higher their risk of having cancer. Another report also shows that the position where we carry fat also play a role. The people who carry fat particularly around their stomachs are at an higher risk compared to people who carry fat around their hips.
What types of cancer are affected by overweight?
Being overweight, just like smoking, affects a number of types of cancer. The report by the NIH shows that being overweight increases the risk of many different types of cancer.
In addition to the most common types of cancer, such as the breast and the colon cancer, overweight also causes other types of cancer. The effect weight has on each type of cancer is complex. And the effect is particularly strong in womb cancer. Report on overweight, obesity and endometrial cancer risk factors have shown that obese women have about twice the risk of developing womb cancer compared to women who are a healthy weight.
Below are a list of the types of cancer associated with overweight.
More types of cancer affected by overweight are:
How really does overweight increase cancer risk?
How really does carrying extra weight causes cells to become cancerous? Researchers are still on-going and are trying to figure out exactly how.
Meanwhile, it is believed that the extra fat resulting from the extra weight releases extera hormones and other growth-promoting signals around the body. The extra weight or fat also causes inflammation. Each of these actions and reactions has an effect on how the body cells divide. The extra hormones and growth factors signals the cells to divide more often.
It is strongly suspected that these changes in cell divisions are most likely behind the increased risk of cancer in overweight people.
Having knowledge is good, but utilizing knowledge is better. Knowing that cancer risk is increased by overweight implies that everyone should do his or her best to maintain a healthy weight. Maintaining a healthy weight is possible if we control the calorie intake and burn off the extra energy through activities.
This is where healthy lifestyle comes in. Apart from maintaining a healthy weight, a healthy lifestyle that takes care of the other factors that cause cancer should be adopted and optimized.
Adopting healthy lifestyle of avoiding smoke, eating and drinking healthy should be a daily routine. Remember that cancer can take a long while to manifest.
Also, do remember that although cancer risk is increased in people who are overweight, this does not mean they will all definitely develop cancer. However, it is safer to stay on the healthy side.