Obesity’s Link to Cancer

(Note: This article first published in The Huffington Post)

Does being overweight increase your risk of getting cancer? Does losing weight reduce that risk? The answer to both questions is a resounding yes. In some cases, the risk is over 50 percent greater. I had no idea the link was so strong, and it turns out that more than 50 percent of Americans are not aware there is any link at all. I am so glad I solved my obesity problem 30 years ago. I knew it probably kept me from getting heart disease and diabetes but I was not aware of such a strong link to cancer.

In the winter 2016 issue of Your Weight Matters, the magazine of the Obesity Action Coalition, Taraneh Soleymani, M.D., teaches us that next to smoking, keeping one’s self at a healthy weight is the most important thing an individual can do to reduce the risk of cancer. If we didn’t have enough reasons to lose weight before, we now have probably the biggest reason ever, preventing cancer.

What kinds of cancers are linked to obesity, and how much greater is the risk?

Dr. Soleymani shocks us with the report by the American Institute for Cancer Research that states that 50 percent of colon and rectal cancers can be prevented by maintaining a healthy weight, balanced diet and physical activity. Half of these cancers are caused by the obesegenic lifestyle that we’ve adopted. Just as shocking, 38 percent of breast cancers, 69 percent of throat cancers, 24 percent of kidney cancers and 19 percent of pancreatic cancers are preventable through healthy weight management. If we are looking for the cure to cancer, here’s the preventive solution: lose the obesity.

Why does being overweight or obese make it easier to get cancer?

As it turns out, your excess fat is not just an inert mass of fuel you’ve stored. It is living active tissue that acts like an organ, manufacturing hormones (our body’s self-made “natural” drugs) that act on the rest of your body, in this case, making it more vulnerable to the generation and growth of cancer. Research reported by The Obesity Society, as well as Dr. Soleymani, points out that it produces chemicals that stimulate (cancer) cell growth, increase the overall inflammation in your body, which is associated with increased cancer risk, and produces excess amounts of estrogen, high levels of which have been associated with the risk of breast, endometrial, and some other cancers. Being obese is like having a factory in your body polluting you with cancer-causing chemicals every day. But get rid of the excess fat, problem solved.

What can we do to get rid of the increased risk of getting cancer?

Fortunately, there is no mystery to the solution. We need to lose the excess weight. And there is no mystery to that either. We need to develop a way of living so that we habitually take in fewer calories than we burn, so that we burn off the fat instead of storing it up. We need to learn new behavior, and instead of dieting, develop new habits of eating what we like in a way that makes us healthy. That’s done through behavior therapy. Believe me, it can be done.

William Anderson is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor who specializes in weight loss, eating disorders and addictions. He solved his own long-time weight problem, losing 140 pounds 30 years ago and has kept it off since. He is the author of The Anderson Method.

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One Response to Obesity’s Link to Cancer

  1. Virgil Anderson

    Here is my story of struggle with cancer:

    Virgil Anderson was born and raised in Williamson, WV. His father, a coal miner, passed when Virgil was 8 years old. Virgil worked in demolition work and excavating since high school. This required the physical tear out, and hands on removal of asbestos containing insulation in walls, ceiling, attics and heating and cooling systems. To remove this required saws and sledge hammers all of which sent the asbestos fibers flying into the air. Unfortunately for Virgil the material had to not only be freed from its location but also picked up and carried to the disposal area. Once asbestos is disturbed it can stay in the air for 5 days. On some occasions there was a haze of dust and debris that you could actually taste in your mouth. He also came in contact with asbestos while working on his family’s farm. Virgil was recently diagnosed with mesothelioma, which is a cancer caused by exposure to asbestos.

    When he was diagnosed with mesothelioma he needed immediate medical attention. He found a few websites on the internet that are supposed to help people with mesothelioma cancer but nobody got back to him.

    Then he found Mesothelioma.net. Even though he contacted them on a Sunday one of their patient advocates gave him a call back within minutes. They gave him a great deal of helpful information on doctors and resources available to him.

    As a result of their website, he is now being treated at the national cancer institute and the patient advocates have even provided him with financial assistance so he could afford a place to live during his chemotherapy. If he had not reached out to this website he would likely be homeless and more importantly in Hospice waiting to die. These people gave him his only chance at survival.

    Mesothelioma is a devastating disease that not only affects your system, but is also mentally exhausting. Treatments to fight off mesothelioma often result in weight loss and fatigue. Keeping your body energized with the proper nutrients and vitamins is crucial to recovering from Mesothelioma. Foods groups such as fruits, vegetables, fats, and water should be implemented into a healthy diet to maintain a proper calorie count as well as vitamin intake. Without proper nutrition, white blood cells, meant for fighting off infection, decrease as well.

    More about the benefits of healthy eating can be found here – https://mesothelioma.net/nutrition-and-lifestyle-for-mesothelioma-patients/

    Along with a healthy diet, mesothelioma victims should make a habit of exercising often. Specifically working on muscle strength is an essential part of exercise. It is not uncommon for mesothelioma and other cancer patients to experience both weight and muscle loss during treatments. Performing regular strength training exercises strengthens muscles, but also strengthens bones, helps maintain a healthy weight with an increased appetite, prevents age-related muscle loss, improves quality of life, relieves fatigue, prevents heart disease, and even helps with stress and depression.

    Read more on exercise meant to fight off Mesothelioma –
    https://mesothelioma.net/top-5-benefits-strength-training-exercise-cancer-patients/

    Read more about Mesothelioma – https://mesothelioma.net/mesothelioma/

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