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The Obesity-Cancer Connection

For most Americans, cancer continues to be our greatest health fear and—second to the common cold— the one we feel we have the least control over. What happens when you combine fear with a sense of little control? More fear and inaction. But surprisingly, there is a lot you can do to lower your cancer risk.

Avoiding tobacco has the biggest impact, but maintaining a healthy weight and getting sufficient exercise is a very close second. A new report published in the Cancer Journal strengthens the weight, fitness, cancer connection. Mary Plescia M.D., director of the division of cancer prevention for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, commented that while Americans know about the link between obesity, diabetes and heart disease, they don’t understand the connections between cancer and obesity. This new awareness may help those who are concerned about cancer to be more motivated to increase their physical activity and make healthier food choices.

Another study presented at the European Breast Cancer Conference suggests that overweight and obese breast cancer patients are at increased risk for the reoccurrence of the disease. Dr. Jennifer Ligibel, medical oncologist at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston and an associate professor at the Harvard Medical School, said that “obesity is a modifiable risk factor, and although there is not yet enough evidences to say with certainty that losing weight or exercising more regularly will reduce the risk of breast cancer recurrence, there are consistent links between factors such as diet, weight and physical activity patterns and breast cancer prognosis. If future studies show that making changes in lifestyle behaviors for women with early breast cancer will improve survival rates, then lifestyle interventions may one day become a standard part of breast cancer care.” So whether it is preventing cancer or the reoccurrence of breast cancer, it appears lifestyle plays a powerful role.

For more on the relationship between diet, weight, exercise and cancer risk, visit the American Institute for Cancer Research website.


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