Obesity and Cancer – The Connection You Cannot Ignore

As the fat percentage in the human body rises, so does your risk for serious, debilitating, life-threatening disease. Heart disease, diabetes, and many forms of cancer have all been linked to being overweight or obese. Obesity ravages your metabolism and hormones, causing chain reactions throughout your body.

The primary effect of too much body fat is inflammation. Once this condition rages out of control, it further raises the stakes of sickness and premature death.

Obesity and cancer are longtime friends but it’s only been in the last decade that the true dangers wrought by an abnormally high body mass index (BMI) has been identified. As the devastation caused by obesity was further researched, the news only worsened.

A review released by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) detailed their examination of more than 1,000 cancer studies and determined that previous estimates regarding the impact of obesity on cancer risk had been underestimated. They published their findings in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The researchers discovered that at least 13 types of cancer are directly linked to obesity.

  1. Esophagus
  2. Colorectal
  3. Breast (particularly in post-menopausal)
  4. Uterus
  5. Kidneys
  6. Stomach
  7. Liver
  8. Gallbladder
  9. Pancreas
  10. Ovary
  11. Meningioma (brain and spinal cord membrane)
  12. Thyroid
  13. Multiple myeloma (plasma cells)

Shockingly, these specific types represent 42% of all new cancer cases. The only risk factor more dangerous than obesity is smoking. Approximately 2.8 million people die annually around the world as a direct cause of obesity. Those who live have a shorter life span than a person who maintains a healthy body weight.

This should worry all of us.

In the United States alone, more than 68% of all adults are considered overweight or obese. That’s a staggering statistic that should send a wakeup call to the population. Instead, the numbers continue to rise.

Particularly alarming are the rates of childhood obesity. In the past three decades, the number of overweight children in the U.S. has doubled and has quadrupled in adolescents.

This is a serious problem for future generations because additional data compiled by IARC found that the longer you’re overweight, the greater your personal cancer risk.

Authors of the study stated, “We found that longer durations of overweight and obesity were significantly associated with an increased incidence of obesity-related cancers, postmenopausal breast cancer, and colon, endometrial, and kidney cancer.”

As a risk factor for cancer, obesity cannot continue to be ignored. It isn’t about body-shaming or how you look in a swimsuit…it’s about your body’s health at the cellular level.

Obesity is an epidemic.

Excess body fat will kill you. Far more people will end up dying from cancer (and many other deadly diseases) than previously estimated if we don’t take drastic measures to reverse this destructive trend.

Unfortunately, maintaining a healthy body weight is not always easy.

Dr. Donna H. Ryan, M.D. said, “If you have not had a friend, family member, or colleague who has struggled with their weight and particularly if you haven’t tried to lose weight yourself, then it’s easy for you to ascribe negative stereotypical traits to overweight and obese people. It’s a lot like alcohol and drug addiction. Our society is more accepting of these conditions as a disease and less so for obesity.”

Shaming body image is one of the last “acceptable” prejudices.

It’s going to take more than willpower or counting calories.

Long-term obesity causes molecular and chemical mutations that can be as difficult to fight as drug addiction. Just like a person who creates a plan to quit smoking, so must someone who wants to lose weight. Take one step at a time and forgive yourself when you slip up.

Obesity and cancer do not have to be part of your life. You can make small, positive changes that gradually improve your bodyweight and your health.

It won’t always be easy or fun. Easy, fun foods and habits are what got us here (and I do mean us). There are going to be days you’ll be so sad or angry or frustrated that you’ll be ready to crawl out of your own skin. I know because I’ve been there.

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