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As any weight-loss physician will tell you, many diseases and health conditions are connected to being overweight.  Being overweight not only increases your chances of cardiovascular disease or diabetes but may also increase the risk of certain forms of cancers.  According to a study by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, there is strong evidence that links excessive body fat and increased risk of 11 cancers.  These 11 cancers include colon, rectum, endometrium, breast, ovary, kidney, pancreas, gastric cardia, biliary tract system, and a few cancers of the esophagus and bone marrow.  

The researchers examined evidence from 204 previously published studies that looked at combined results from many pieces of research, pointing to the link between body fat and the development of certain cancers.  95 of the studies looked at weight on a continuous scale, such as body mass index.  After analyzing these studies, 8 forms of cancer seemed to be associated to obesity.  Other studies that looked at different measures of obesity were included in the analysis.  Once those studies were analyzed, the total number of cancers that presented evidence of a link to body fat came to 11.

The study did not explain how excess body weight is linked to an increased risk of some cancers, but some explanation has been offered by one of the researchers.  Researcher and co-author Marc Gunter explained, “We know that if you are overweight it causes lots of disruption of hormonal and metabolic pathways.”  This is attributed to the fact that being overweight is also linked to higher insulin levels, higher estrogen levels, and an increase in inflammation overall.  All of these factors impact cell division.  Further, cancer rates tend to increase six times faster in women than men.

Dr. Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at Public Health England noted that awareness is key.  She stated, “Less than half the population realizes that being obese increases the risk of cancer and, with almost two-thirds of adults carrying excess weight, this is worrying.”  An increased number of people are expected to be overweight by 2035, with 700,000 new cases of obesity-related cancer expected in 20 years.  Be sure to discuss any questions, concerns, or family history of cancer with your weight-loss physician.


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