When experts talk about the health conditions associated with the chronic disease of obesity, it usually goes something like this: Obesity is a leading cause of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, high cholesterol, and even some types of cancer. It’s that “and even some types of cancer” part that could use increased attention.
Cancer is a scary word, and it may be difficult for most people to wrap their heads around the fact that obesity can indeed increase the risk of developing certain types of cancer. This list includes esophageal, pancreatic, colon and rectum, breast, endometrial, kidney, thyroid and gallbladder cancers. And surprisingly lung cancer may be added to that list, having been linked to foods that rank high on the glycemic index.
Impressive strides in the treatment of these types of cancers have been made in the last decade. However, the risk of survival decreases when obesity is also a factor. For instance, the average survival rate of a male patient being treated for colorectal cancer drops by 84% when obesity is present.
The exact mechanisms behind the increased risk of cancers due to obesity are not fully known and most likely vary between female and male cancers. Researchers have proposed a few possible sources, such as fat tissue’s actively destructive properties, overproduction of insulin, and chronic inflammation.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has reported that if current trends continue, obesity will be the source of about 500,000 new cases of cancer in the United States by 2030. However, it should be noted that the NIH also said that if every adult reduced his or her Body Mass Index (BMI) by just 1 percent, it could help to prevent about 100,000 new cancer cases.
Let’s pause and contemplate that last statement for a moment. If such a modest amount of weight loss can produce such overwhelmingly positive results, then just think about the possibilities if we took it just a little bit further. What if every adult lost 2 percent of BMI? We could put a serious dent into the need for cancer treatment in the US.
While cancer may not be the most prevalent of diseases on the list associated with obesity, it is still a serious consideration. But with some effort, there is hope that we may be able to push it off the list for good.