According the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR), 320 cancer cases could be prevented per day; that’s approximately 117,000 cases per year by keeping our weight under control.
As the chart below indicates, obesity contributes to several different forms of cancer. But while most Americans know the relationship between obesity, heart disease and diabetes, very few know the impact of obesity on cancer.
A recent poll by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that just 7% of those surveyed mentioned cancer when asked about the consequences of obesity. Other surveys have found that for Americans under the age of 65, cancer is our greatest health fear, and a disease that many feel they have very little control over. Fear can be a very powerful motivator, but only if you think you can do something to lower risk. The combination of fear with a perception of little or no control however, leads to more fear but no action.
But there is a lot that we can do to lower our risk, and for many it starts with weight management. According to Susan Higginbotham, PhD, MPH, RD, AICR’s Director of Research, “our understanding of how excess body fat causes cancer is one of the hot topics in research right now.” It has been found that excess body fat produces proteins called cytokines that cause chronic inflammation, which increase cancer risk and being overweight or obese also increases insulin levels, which can stimulate the growth of cancer cells.
The good news is that even moderate weight loss helps to reduce the risk. Not that we need any more reasons to work on managing our weight, but maybe having one more will help.