Extra fat gets stored in the fat cells of the body known as adipose tissue. Fat cells are active cells of the body that produce hormones and protein. These are chemical messengers, they affect the way cells work. This can raise the risk of many chronic diseases including several types of cancers.
Research has shown high prevalence of certain cancers in overweight or obese individuals. Obesity increases levels of hormones like estrogen and insulin, which have been linked to increased cancer risk. Moreover, excess fat seems to cause chronic inflammation that is known to cause cancer development. The various cancers due to obesity include:
1. Breast cancer: Excess fat alters the levels of sex hormones like estrogen and progesterone due to cellular resistance. This increases risk of breast cancer, especially in postmenopausal women.
2. Bowel cancer: Studies have found a strong association between waist circumference and colorectal/bowel cancers. High insulin levels are hypothesized to promote colon cancer development in both men and women, but predominantly in men.
3. Uterine cancer: Obese women have two to four times higher risk of developing endometrial carcinoma. It is more commonly found in women who have never used hormonal therapy. High estrogen levels is one of the major cause.
4. Esophageal cancer: Obese people are at a greater risk of gastro esophageal reflux disease or Barrett’s esophagus. This has a high chance of progressing into esophageal carcinomas, later in life.
5. Gastric cancer: Hypergastrenemia or increased acid production can damage the mucosal lining of the stomach. This causes gastric ulcers, which if left unattended can slowly progress to full-blown gastric carcinomas.
6. Pancreatic and hepatocellular cancer: Increasing incidence of high waist circumference has been shown to increase prevalence of pancreatic and liver cancers in men. It is hypothesized, to be due to increased insulin levels.
7. Kidney cancer: A global study proved that women, whose weight fluctuated by more than 4.5 kg, more than 10 times in an 8 year period, were almost at a two times higher risk of developing kidney cancer.
How does losing weight help?
Losing weight helps to increase cellular insulin sensitivity. This brings down the risk of cancers like pancreatic, liver and colorectal cancers in men. It also reduces estrogen and progesterone levels in females, which is the harbinger of many cancers of the female body. When the tissue resistance drops, in the absence of excess fat, the hormonal levels drop naturally. Losing weight helps to cease ongoing inflammation in the body that promotes cancer development. Physical workout releases several protective factors into the bloodstream that actually prevent cancers and help in healing.
Cancer care is now focused more towards cancer prevention than cure. Cancer care is largely related to shedding off obesity. A number of studies have shown that avoiding a weight gain or losing extra weight reduces the risk of developing chronic diseases like cancer. Lifestyle interventions to reduce weight have a positive impact on cancer incidence and numbers.
When you link obesity to cancer, it provides a different perspective to being overweight. So, instead of merely promoting on aesthetics, weight loss can be a means to revolutionize one’s health. It may help to combat cancers in individuals with strong family histories. After all, if weight loss is done for health reasons, it can offer empowerment rather than being a mere obligation. It can become a huge part of cancer care treatment in the near future. So get moving, workout and fight the disease.