Does extra weight increase my risk for cancer?

September 02, 2021 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health

You’ve heard it before and you’ll hear it again — carrying around extra weight can take a toll on your body for more reasons than one.

People who are overweight or obese are more likely to be depressed, have heart disease, diabetes or suffer a stroke. They are also at an increased risk of developing cancer.

Why does extra fat increase our risk for developing the disease?

Body fatness influences the levels of a number of hormones and growth factors. When body fat increases, it can promote the growth of cancer cells. In addition, insulin resistance is increased by our abdominal fat, and our pancreas compensates by increasing kidney production. Long story short, your body is working harder than it needs to.

Being overweight or obese is clearly linked with an increased risk of many cancers, including:

  • Breast (in women past menopause)
  • Colon and rectum
  • Endometrium (lining of the uterus)
  • Esophagus
  • Kidney
  • Pancreas

Obesity may also raise the risk of other cancers, such as gallbladder, kidney, liver and ovarian to name a few. In addition, those who have a number on the scale that changes often should be aware of an increased risk of cancer. Studies have shown that the following factors can increase your risk:

  • High birth weight
  • Gaining weight as an adult
  • Losing and regaining weight repeatedly

The World Research Cancer Fund estimates at least 18 percent of all cancers diagnosed in the United States are related to body fatness, physical inactivity, excess alcohol consumption and/or poor nutrition. Help yourself stay healthy by maintaining a healthy weight through:

  • Checking your body mass index (BMI) to help determine whether your weight is healthy.
  • Watching your portion size and limiting your intake of foods high in calories, fat and added sugars.
  • Moving and being more active, and avoiding being sedentary. Experts recommend that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity activity each week, or an equivalent combination, preferably spread throughout the week.
  • Limiting alcohol use.

Learn more about cancer care at Edward-Elmhurst Health.

Endeavor Health® Weight Management at Edward-Elmhurst Health offers both surgical and non-surgical options to help you achieve permanent weight loss and the healthy, active life you were meant to live.

Edward-Elmhurst Health & Fitness uses a behavior modification approach to weight loss. 

Related blog:

Read 6 tips to help you get slim for good


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