Body Weight, Weight Gain and Cancer – What is the Relationship?headingContent

Posted on October 29, 2015

hands holding a pink ribbon for awareness of breast cancerThis is the time of year for Breast Cancer Awareness. Obesity can also be associated with increased risks of breast cancer and possibly these following cancer types:

  • Breast (after menopause)
  • Colon and rectum
  • Endometrium (lining of the uterus)
  • Esophagus
  • Gallbladder
  • Kidney
  • Pancreas
  • Thyroid

What is obesity?

Obesity is a condition that can occur when a person has unusually high and an unhealthy proportion of body fat.

Using a scale known as body mass index (BMI) is how the body weight is calculated. BMI is calculated by dividing a person’s weight in kilograms by the square of height in meters.

Another simple measure for obesity is the waist circumference. By using a standard tape measure, measuring just above the top of the hip bone, can indicate an even greater risk if women are above 35 inches and men are above 40 inches.

What is known about the relationship between obesity and cancer?

Obese people often have increased levels of insulin and insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) in their blood, a condition known as hyperinsulinemia or insulin resistance, which may promote the development of certain tumors.

Dr. Lance Simkins, an interventional cardiologist and a specialist in obesity medicine with Tenet Florida Physician Services in Tamarac and Boca Raton, said “fat cells produce hormones, called adipokines, which may stimulate or inhibit cell growth. For example, leptin, which is more abundant in obese people, seems to promote cell proliferation, whereas adiponectin, which is less abundant in obese people, may have antiproliferative effects.”

“Fat cells may also have direct and indirect effects on other tumor growth regulators, including mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) and activated protein kinase (AMP). Obese people often have chronic low-level or subacute inflammation, which has been associated with increased cancer risk,” said Dr. Simkins.

What is known about the relationship between obesity and breast cancer?

Weight gain can be a consistent and strong proctor of breast cancer risk in studies. According to Susan G. Komen, there are many studies that have linked BMI to breast cancer risk. However, BMI can affect risks differently before and after menopause. Fat tissue produces excess amounts of estrogen, high levels of which have been associated with the risk of breast, endometrial and some other cancers.

How can body weight affect breast cancer risk after menopause?

“Many studies have shown that overweight and obesity are associated with a modest increase in risk of postmenopausal breast cancer. This higher risk is seen mainly in women who have never used menopausal hormone therapy (MHT),” said Dr. Simkins

What are the prevention methods and treatment options?

According to Dr. Simkins, changes in diet and lifestyle (activity), finding pre-cancerous conditions early, pre-cancerous conditions are conditions that may become cancer, and chemoprevention, which is medicine to treat a pre-cancerous condition or to keep cancer from starting are all ways in which you can help prevent or treat cancer.

“You can’t choose your parents! You can choose to make small daily choices which support what matters most to you, your health, your family and your future!” said Dr. Simkins.