The link to Obesity and Cancer in Women

  August 3, 2015

  I recently received a call from a cousin she had cancer and surgery was scheduled for the following week. As children we spent many summers and week-ends together feeling as if we were sisters. In actuality our mothers were sisters. She had found a lump on one of her breasts. After a doctor visit, a biopsy and minor surgery she found out it was the big C. You see.... cancer runs in her family on both her  father and mothers side. Her paternal grandmother had both breasts removed at the age of 60 but lived to be 86 years old. On our mothers side there is stomach cancer and colon cancer. Genetically it's usually on the mothers side. 

     According to data from Cancer Research in the UK, 274  in every 1,000 obese women are expected to develope some form of weight related cancer.  These include bowel, kidney, esophegial,colon,pancreatic,gallbladder and post menopausal breast to name a few. The combination of genes, environment, exercise and other aspects of our lives  are all contributing factors. Excess fat changes the levels of sex hormones, namely estrogen and testosterone, in the body. This may increase the risk of cancer. Fat cells also produce many other chemical messengers which affect how the body works.

    The hormone insulin is an important part of how the body uses energy from food. When people are overweight or obese, there is much more insulin present in the body. It’s not clear how this could lead to cancer, but high insulin levels are a common feature of many cancers. When too much fat is carried around the belly, it can do even more damage. The so-called ‘apple’ shapes are linked to bowel, kidney, esophageal, pancreatic, breast, and womb cancers. Fat cells send out signals that keep cells with DNA damage from dying, leaving more damaged cells alive. This enables these cells to one day become cancerous. What these signals mean we aren't quite sure but it's probably a subject for future research.To reduce cancer risk, most people should  keep their BMIs below 25. BMI is a number based on your weight and height.The higher the number, the more body fat a person has. BMI is often used as a screening tool to determine if your weight might be putting you at risk for health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

What can you do to help prevent these types of cancer?

    Diet-Watching how much you eat will help you control your weight. Try watching your portion sizes, especially  foods high in calories, fat, and added sugars. Also try to limit your intake of high-calorie drinks. Eat more vegetables, lean protein and whole grains Try writing down what and how much you eat and drink for a week, then see where you can cut down on portion sizes and cut back on some not-so-healthy foods.

    Exercise-The other key is to be more physically active. Being active helps reduce your cancer risk by helping with weight control. It can also help improve your hormone levels and the way your immune system works. Even a small increase will reap benefits. Research indicates that physical activity after a diagnosis of breast cancer may be beneficial in improving quality of life by reducing fatigue and  energy balances. Studies have found that women who exercised moderately ( walking 3 to 5 hours per week at an average pace) after a diagnosis of breast cancer had improved survival rated compared with more sedentary women. Especially in women with hormone responsive tumors. Another study found that a home-based physical activity program had a beneficial effect on the fitness and psychological well-being of previously sedentary women who had completed treatment for early-stage through stage II breast cancer. Increasing physical activity may influence insulin and leptin levels and influence the prognosis of breast cancer as well . Although there are several promising studies, it is too early to be able to draw any strong conclusions regarding physical activity and breast cancer survival rates.