Extra Pounds Bring Cancer Risk
Being overweight increases your risk for many types of cancer. A healthy diet and physical activity can help lower the risk.
Experts have found clear links between overweight and cancers of the breast, pancreas, kidney, esophagus, uterus, colon and rectum. It may also be involved in several other types of cancer. Excess weight raises the risk of other serious diseases, especially diabetes, heart disease and stroke, too.
According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, excess body fat is second only to smoking as a cause of cancer. And it seems that the more overweight you are, the greater the risk.
If you're carrying some extra weight, don't despair. You can lower your cancer risk by being more physically active and eating a healthier diet. And those steps may help you get your weight under control, cutting your risk even more. Losing even 5 to 10 percent of your total weight can have health benefits.
Body fat and cancer: what's the connection?
It's a mistake to think that all fat does is make your clothes tighter. In fact, fat is an active tissue, especially fat that's carried in the abdomen. It produces estrogen, and it affects the levels of hormones, proteins and growth factors. These chemicals promote rapid cell growth. When cells are growing and dividing quickly, there's more of a chance that they will start to grow abnormally and become cancer cells.
Weight control: what you can do
If your weight is in the trouble zone, try to put a halt to weight gain. But don't fall for fad diets. They fail in the long run and can be both unhealthy and discouraging. Instead, make changes that can lead to healthy, slow weight loss:
- Eat more plant-based foods. Choose fruits, non-starchy vegetables, beans and whole grains. Eat less meat, high-fat foods, processed foods and fast food.
- Watch your portion sizes. Any food can add pounds if you eat too much of it.
- Drink more water and no-calorie beverages such as unsweetened tea. Avoid sugary drinks, and limit alcohol if you choose to drink. (No more than one drink a day for women, two for men.)
- Move more. Try to be physically active at least 30 minutes a day most days. Always check with your doctor before you increase your activity level.
If you're lean now, make efforts to stay that way. Weigh yourself regularly (but not too often). And change your diet or activity level if your weight starts to creep up. It's easier to lose five pounds than 15.