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Obesity and Cancer Risk

Medically reviewed by

Prof Rishi Singhal MBBS, MRCS, FRCS, MD

You may have seen in the media today the discussion about obesity increasing the risk of developing cancer. Of course, the link between obesity and cancer isn’t new, obesity is known to be the second biggest preventable cause of cancer in the UK after smoking leading to more than 1 in 20 cancer cases. The focus of today’s articles was that there had been a steep rise in cancer risk in younger generations.

The American Cancer Society studied millions of health records from 1995 to 2014, publishing their findings in The Lancet Public Health:

  • 6 out of 12 obesity-related cancers (colorectal, uterine, gallbladder, kidney, pancreatic and multiple myeloma – a blood cancer) increased, particularly in people under the age of 50
  • The cases of these cancers rose more sharply with each new generation
  • The risk of colorectal, uterine and gallbladder cancers has doubled for those born post 2000 compared with those born in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Researchers say this trend may be down to the rapid rise in obesity in the last few decades with “younger generations worldwide experiencing an earlier and longer exposure to the dangers of extra weight”. Read the full BBC article

How can obesity lead to cancer?

Being overweight doesn’t mean that you will definitely develop cancer but your risk of developing cancer increases with the amount of excess weight you carry and for how long you are overweight.

Extra fat in the body doesn’t just sit there, it actively sends signals around your body, affecting processes like cell growth and the body’s reproductive cycles.

Cancer Research UK also state that it matters where your fat is stored on your body.

Fat stored around the stomach can potentially do the most damage as it surrounds the vital organs. This ‘apple shape’ is linked to bowel, kidney, oesophageal, pancreatic, and breast cancers.

It isn’t clear exactly why this is, but it could be to do with how quickly certain chemicals from fat can get into the blood. Read more

The good news is that losing weight can reduce your risk of developing an obesity-related cancer. If you are worried that your weight is affecting your health and you want to explore our packages, call us on 0800 531 6703 and one of our consultants will be pleased to answer your questions.