Linking Obesity to Cancer

Web Producer: Brad Maglinger

The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine says losing excess weight could prevent one of every six cancer deaths in the United States. That's more than 90,000 deaths each year.

The study concludes that excess weight may account for 14 percent of all cancer deaths in men and 20 percent of cancer deaths in women. Oncologist Dr. Anthony Stephens said, "This was a study of greater than 900,000 people were studied. That's huge and it was able to detect differences that smaller studies had not been able to do so previously."

Researchers say there is sufficient evidence to link obesity to cancers of the colon, breast, endometrium, kidney, esophagus, gallbladder and pancreas. It's easy to understand why extra fat may affect your heart, but how can it cause cancer?

Well fat doesn't just sit around in your body. It's deposited in cells that secrete small amounts of hormones and other chemicals that regulate cell function. Cancer researchers say these hormones can speed up the way other cells grow and divide. That makes it more likely that one or more cells can go haywire, dividing wildly and forming a cancerous tumor. If it's in the breast for instance, more than 80 percent of patients will beat it, but that's not the case for other types of cancer.

Dr. Stephens said, "Ninety plus percent of the people diagnosed with lung cancer will ultimately die from their disease. Same is true for things such as kidney cancer, liver cancers, brain cancers and so forth. Those are things that with our methods of detection and treatment, people still do not have a good prognosis. So the best way is to altogether avoid it if you can." And now we can definitively say losing weight will help.

Researchers say the link is stronger in women because more of them are obese and breast cancer is so common.

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