measuring tape around waist

Is Obesity Linked to Cancer?

measuring tape around waist

Can obesity cause cancer? It’s a common question. Evidence suggests that obesity is indeed a risk factor for cancer. Research shows that while obesity can perhaps not be identified as a definitive cause, there is a clear link that increases a person’s risk of developing certain types of cancer.

How Is Obesity Measured?

Doctors typically use Body Mass Index (BMI) to determine obesity. BMI provides a ratio of a person’s weight to their height. The general range breakdown for men and women is:

  • Underweight: BMI less than 18.5
  • Normal: BMI of 18.5 to 24.9
  • Overweight: BMI of 25 to 29.9
  • Obese: BMI of 30 or higher

BMI does not paint a completely accurate picture for everyone, especially those with high muscle mass, but doctors often use it as a starting place in assessing weight.

Types of Cancer Linked to Obesity

The types of cancer most commonly linked to obesity include:

  • Kidney
  • Uterine
  • Breast
  • Pancreatic
  • Prostate
  • Thyroid
  • Gall bladder
  • Colon/rectal
  • Head and neck
  • Esophageal
  • Endometrium

In terms of how obesity leads to cancer, factors such as increased fat tissue, insulin levels, inflammation and fat cells all play a role.

Role of Obesity in the Development of Breast Cancer

Breast cancer is the most prevalent cancer in women. And evidence suggests that obesity has a large impact on the development of the disease.

Obesity means higher levels of insulin in the body, which is linked to breast cancer. In addition, having more fat tissue raises estrogen levels, which also increases the risk of breast cancer.

But the connection between obesity and breast cancer is not a straightforward one, and factors such as where the body stores the most fat (stomach vs. hips, for example) and weight gain later in life are contributing factors.

Overall, obesity is clearly linked to breast cancer, but the effect varies from person to person.

Tips for Maintaining a Healthy Body Weight

When someone is struggling to maintain a healthy weight, there are some tips that may help:

  • Exercise: Moderate physical activity of 30 to 60 minutes a day is recommended, but even a small increase in time spent engaged in physical activity can be beneficial.
  • Eat healthy: Foods such as vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and fruits are low in fat and high in vitamins, and they help keep you full for longer.
  • Reduce sugar intake: Food and beverages high in sugar can quickly add on the pounds. Avoiding drinks like soda and juice and food like candy can help keep sugar levels normal.
  • Monitor calorie intake: Determine the number of calories you need per day based on factors such as your weight, height, and physical activity level to help determine how many calories you should have in a day. Then, try tracking your food intake, whether on your own or using a program, to help determine if you’re in the right range.

For more information on compassionate cancer treatment, contact us at Gettysburg Cancer Center.