Prediction: Obesity Will Surpass Smoking As Most Preventable Cause of Cancer

apple shaped word cloud bmiIt’s no secret that being overweight or obese can affect your overall health. When you’re overweight, you increase your chances of stroke, diabetes, heart disease and depression, but did you know being overweight increases your risk for cancer? In 2014, obesity increased the risk of 13 different types of cancer, which together accounted for about 40 percent of all cancers diagnosed in the United States. In the same year, about two out of three adults in the United States were considered obese, but only half of Americans were aware of the link between cancer and obesity. It’s predicted that in just a few years, obesity will surpass smoking as the most preventable cause of cancer.

Being overweight or obese has been proven to be the cause of thirteen different cancers:

  • Adenocarcinoma of the esophagus
  • Breast
  • Colon and rectum
  • Gallbladder
  • Kidney
  • Liver
  • Meningioma (cancer of the tissue covering the brain and spinal cord)
  • Multiple myeloma (cancer of blood cells)
  • Ovaries
  • Pancreas
  • Thyroid
  • Upper stomach
  • Uterus

So why does being overweight or obese cause havoc on the body? For years, researchers have always noted the correlation between obesity and cancer, but have never been able to figure out just how the two were connected. In addition to the increase in blood pressure, levels of hormones, and inflammation, being overweight or obese increases cholesterol levels, which may be the underlying cause for cancer. In a recent study, Louis Messina, MD, vascular surgery, revealed that high cholesterol damages cancer-fighting immune cells. Not only does this lessen the production of cancer-fighting immune cells by stem cells, but it also impairs the remaining immune cells’ ability to fight cancer.

Get Started

When it comes to taking your health seriously, the answer is simple: maintain a healthy weight. In recent studies, those who were obese and received bariatric surgery to aid in weight loss lowered their odds of getting cancer. Whether you have ten or one hundred pounds to lose, the first step to protecting your health is to start healthy habits. Get started with this blog post on burning calories without exercise.

Need one-on-one help from our experts? Visit the Good Fit Clinic for teens or the Weight Center for adults. Start taking control of your health today by calling 855-UMASS-MD.

Join the conversation. What are some of your favorite tips to help you lose weight and stay in shape?

  4 comments for “Prediction: Obesity Will Surpass Smoking As Most Preventable Cause of Cancer

  1. May 6, 2018 at 3:14 pm

    Sorry, but there is no research that shows that obesity “causes” cancer. There is research that shows it increases risks of certain types of cancer. For breast cancer, it increases the risk 5%, compared to being a woman which increases the risk 16%|. Hence, not a real huge driver. Obesity does cause other diseases, such as diabetes or high blood pressure or even strokes, which can make recovering from cancer a nightmare as it takes certain treatments off the table. You’ll need to come up with a better reason for people to lose weight, as this scare tactic isn’t one of them.

  2. hannabelle12
    February 2, 2018 at 12:57 pm

    I am confused about how you can make the direct leap between being overweight and having high cholesterol. You seem to use the two terms interchangeably. However, I know someone who is extremely large and doesn’t eat well or exercise and has a total cholesterol of 160, and also one of my fitness instructors who eats well, exercises for a living, is slim, and still has high cholesterol. What am I missing?

    • UMass Memorial
      May 22, 2018 at 1:10 pm

      I believe you are referencing this sentence – In addition to the increase in blood pressure, levels of hormones, and inflammation, being overweight or obese increases cholesterol levels, which may be the underlying cause for cancer. In a recent study, Louis Messina, MD, vascular surgery, revealed that high cholesterol damages cancer-fighting immune cells. Not only does this lessen the production of cancer-fighting immune cells by stem cells, but it also impairs the remaining immune cells’ ability to fight cancer. He is saying being overweight can increase cholesterol levels, which could be a cause for cancer. Dr. Messina says that high cholesterol damages cancer-fighting cells. Hopefully that clarifies the paragraph.

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